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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index H > John Hunter Quotes

Thumbnail of John Hunter (source)
John Hunter
(13 Feb 1728 - 16 Oct 1793)

Scottish anatomist, surgeon and pathologist who was an early advocate of investigation and experimentation, and a founder of pathological anatomy in England. He made many important studies in comparative aspects of biology, anatomy, physiology, and pathology.


Science Quotes by John Hunter (6 quotes)

Portrait of John Hunter, 3/4 body seated facing forward, elbow on side table with open book of anatomy illustrations
Oil Portrait of John Hunter
after Sir Joshua Reynolds, credit: Wellcome Collection (source)
A sufferer from angina, Hunter found that his attacks were often brought on by anger. He declared, 'My life is at the mercy of the scoundrel who chooses to put me in a passion.' This proved prophetic: at a meeting of the board of St. George's Hospital, London, of which he was a member, he became involved in a heated argument with other board members, walked out of the meeting and dropped dead in the next room.
— John Hunter
As described in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), AndrΓ© Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 282, citing New Scientist (9 Nov 1981).
Science quotes on:  |  Anger (20)  |  Argument (138)  |  Attack (84)  |  Choose (113)  |  Death (391)  |  Declared (24)  |  Dropped (17)  |  Heat (174)  |  Hospital (43)  |  Hunter (24)  |  Involved (90)  |  Life (1799)  |  Next (236)  |  Other (2236)  |  Passion (114)  |  Prophesy (10)  |  Scoundrel (8)  |  Sufferer (7)  |  Walk (124)

I thank you for your Expt on the Hedge Hog; but why do you ask me such a question, by way of solving it. I think your solution is just; but why think, why not try the Expt.
[Often seen, without context, briefly as: But why think, why not try the experiment?']
— John Hunter
Letter to Edward Jenner (2 Aug 1775). In A. J. Harding Rains (ed.), Letters From the Past: From John Hunter to Edward Jenner (1976), 9.
Science quotes on:  |  Ask (411)  |  Context (29)  |  Do (1908)  |  Experiment (696)  |  Hedgehog (4)  |  Question (622)  |  Solution (269)  |  Thank (46)  |  Thank You (8)  |  Think (1086)  |  Thought (954)  |  Try (283)  |  Way (1216)  |  Why (491)

If we were capable of following the progress of increase of the number of the parts of the most perfect animal, as they first formed in succession, from the very first to its state of full perfection, we should probably be able to compare it with some one of the incomplete animals themselves, of every order of animals in the Creation, being at no stage different from some of the inferior orders; or, in other words, if we were to take a series of animals, from the more imperfect to the perfect, we should probably find an imperfect animal, corresponding with some stage of the most perfect.
— John Hunter
R. Owen (ed.), John Hunter's Observations on Animal Development (1841), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Animal (617)  |  Being (1278)  |  Capable (168)  |  Compare (70)  |  Creation (329)  |  Different (577)  |  Evolution (593)  |  Find (999)  |  First (1284)  |  Form (960)  |  Imperfect (45)  |  Incomplete (30)  |  Increase (211)  |  Inferior (37)  |  More (2559)  |  Most (1729)  |  Number (701)  |  Order (632)  |  Other (2236)  |  Perfect (216)  |  Perfection (130)  |  Progress (468)  |  Series (149)  |  Stage (143)  |  State (491)  |  Succession (77)  |  Themselves (433)  |  Word (622)

Never ask me what I have said or what I have written; but if you will ask what my present opinions are, I will tell you.
— John Hunter
As quoted by Drewry Ottley, 'The Life of John Hunter', in James Frederick Palmer (ed.), The Works of John Hunter (1835), Vol. 1, 48.
Science quotes on:  |  Ask (411)  |  Never (1087)  |  Opinion (281)  |  Present (620)  |  Tell (340)  |  Will (2354)  |  Writing (189)

Some physiologists will have it that the stomach is a mill; others, that it is a fermenting vat; others, again that it is a stew-pan; but in my view of the matter, it is neither a mill, a fermenting vat nor a stew-pan, but a stomach gentlemen, a stomach.
— John Hunter
'MS Note From his Lectures', in J. A. Paris, A Treatise on Diet (1824), epigraph.
Science quotes on:  |  Matter (801)  |  Mill (16)  |  Other (2236)  |  Physiologist (29)  |  Stomach (39)  |  View (488)  |  Will (2354)

The specific qualities in diseases also tend more rapidly to the skin than to the deeper-seated parts, except the cancer; although even in this disease the progress towards the superficies is more quick than its progress towards the centre. In short, this is a law in nature, and it probably is upon the same principle by which vegetables always approach the surface of the earth.
— John Hunter
In A Treatise on the Blood, Inflammation and Gun-shot Wounds (1794, 1828), 299-300.
Science quotes on:  |  Approach (108)  |  Cancer (55)  |  Centre (28)  |  Deep (233)  |  Disease (332)  |  Earth (998)  |  Law (895)  |  Law Of Nature (73)  |  More (2559)  |  Nature (1928)  |  Principle (510)  |  Progress (468)  |  Quality (134)  |  Quick (13)  |  Rapid (33)  |  Rapidly (66)  |  Short (197)  |  Skin (47)  |  Specific (95)  |  Surface (209)  |  Surface Of The Earth (36)  |  Tend (124)  |  Toward (45)  |  Vegetable (46)



Quotes by others about John Hunter (1)

Epitaph of John Hunter
The Royal College of Surgeons of England have placed this tablet over the grave of Hunter, to record their admiration of his genius as a gifted interpreter of the Divine Power and Wisdom at work in the Laws of Organic Life, and their grateful veneration for his services to mankind as the Founder of Scientific Surgery.
Epitaph
Memorial brass in the floor of north aisle of Westminster Abbey, placed when Hunter's remains were reinterred there (28 Mar 1859). In Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography (1972), Vol. 6, 568.
Science quotes on:  |  Admiration (59)  |  College (68)  |  Divine (112)  |  Epitaph (19)  |  Founder (26)  |  Genius (285)  |  Gift (104)  |  Gifted (24)  |  Grave (52)  |  Hunter (24)  |  Law (895)  |  Life (1799)  |  Mankind (340)  |  Organic (158)  |  Power (747)  |  Record (154)  |  Royal (56)  |  Scientific (940)  |  Service (110)  |  Surgeon (63)  |  Surgery (51)  |  Tablet (6)  |  Westminster Abbey (2)  |  Wisdom (221)  |  Work (1351)


See also:
  • 13 Feb - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Hunter's birth.
  • The Knife Man: Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery, by Wendy Moore . - book suggestion.
  • Booklist for History of Surgery.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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