William Hunter (1718–1783)

Image credit: Royal College of Physicians, London

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William Hunter (1718–1783) was a Scottish-born anatomist, surgeon and midwife who became ‘perhaps the best teacher of anatomy that ever lived’. He ran a surgical and midwifery practice in London, investigating the female reproductive system by dissecting animals. He lectured on surgery and later anatomy, which became his chief interest.

Hunter built up a busy practice and was appointed physician-extraordinary to the Queen. His success enabled him to establish an anatomy school on Great Windmill Street, London, which included lecture theatres, dissecting rooms and a museum. He established a superb library and collection of medals and natural history specimens which today forms the collection of the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow.

The painting shows Hunter in his role as professor of anatomy at the Royal Academy of Art, lecturing on stage with anatomical and live models, and watched by members of the Academy including Sir Joshua Reynolds (identifiable by his ear-trumpet).

Royal College of Physicians, London



William Hunter (1718–1783)




oil on canvas


H 77.4 x W 103.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

gift from Mrs Baillie, 1825

Work type



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