Connections: Home from Home; February 2001; Scientific American Magazine; by James Burke; 2 Page(s)
Some time ago I wrote that I'd revisit the case of Anne Home, who married John Hunter, the 18th-century carpenter turned (what else?) Surgeon-pathologist and patron of body snatchers. Anne was a minor poet who wrote stuff Haydn set to music (one notable piece: "My Mother Bids Me Bind My Hair") and was known for her talkative drawingroom lit-crit parties (on one occasion an exasperated Hunter chucked them all out).
In 1792 a 17-year-old nice young man, recommended by an old school chum of hers, fetched up at Anne and John's home in London and was given a freebie apprenticeship to sketch Hunter's work (bits of pieces, so to speak) and to look after the growing confusion of anatomically related bric-a-brac Hunter had amassed in his back-room museum. This pile eventually became famous as the Hunterian Collection, and after Hunter's death in 1793 the nice young man, William Clift, looked after it for more than 50 years. Night and day, they said. Clift became the indefatigable research resource on Hunteriana for such luminaries as Cuvier, Lyell, Davy and Banks and a walking encyclopedia on anything anatomical.