The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery
Broadway Books, 2005 - 341 pages
When Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his gothic horror story of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, he reputedly based the house of the genial doctor turned fiend on the home of the 18thC surgeon and anatomist John Hunter. The choice was understandable, for Hunter combined an altruistic determination to advance scientific knowledge with dark dealings that brought him into daily contact with the sinister Georgian underworld. In 18thC London, Hunter was a man both acclaimed and feared. Driven by an insatiable curiosity, Hunter dissected thousands of human bodies, using the knowledge he gained to improve medical care for countless patients. Treating not only the poor but also some of the most illustrious characters of the time, such as Joshua Reynolds and the young Lord Byron, he was appointed Surgeon Extraordinary to King George III and served in the Seven Years War where, following long, bloody battles, he patched up the unfortunate casualties' musket wounds and bayonet injuries. Considered by many to be the father of modern surgery, Hunter was also an eminent naturalist; he dissected the first creatures brought back from Captain Cook's voyages to Australia and kept exotic animals in his country menagerie in Earls Court; his eventual thesis outlining his ideas on evolution included a passage headed, 'On the origin of species'. Written some 60 years before Darwin's famous paper, this potentially groundbreaking work was suppressed on religious grounds by the Royal Society. Ultimately, he created the largest anatomical collection of its kind u which has been called 'a museum of evolution' u still to be seen in central London. Although a leading figure of the Enlightenment, and friend to many influential men of his age, Hunter's tireless quest for human and animal bodies drove him to unparalleled extremes that immersed in the murky world of body-snatching. He paid large sums to his criminal contacts for the stolen corpses of men, women and children which were delivered in hampers to his back door.
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Principally a man of action rather than words, he was best known for his
pioneering operation to remove bladder stones. Known as lithotomy, the
operation to extract a bladder stone had been performed since ancient times; as
of the ...
Not only was Hunter well known for his coarse language, disdain for etiquette,
and casual dress, he was far more inclined to discuss curious experiments on
live animals and dissections of dead bodies than lyrical poems on love and
Possessing both a pair of legs and feathery gills at the front, and no hind legs at
all, the creature of roughly two feet in length had been discovered in a swamp in
the southern part of North America; it was known by locals as the "mud iguana.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - wealhtheowwylfing - LibraryThing
John Hunter rose from a poor Scottish farming family to become one of the leading men of science and medicine. His courage (he inserted a knife's point covered in pus into his urethra to see if ... Read full review
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - NineLarks - LibraryThing
This was a bit of an interesting read that takes you back into the late 1700's and headfirst into the medical fields where surgery is starting to emerge from the barbers as a more prestigious field ... Read full review
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