chapter  5
Physiological principles in the surgical writings of John Hunter
ByStephen Jacyna
Pages 18

Central to John Hunter’s conception of the operations of the body in health and disease was his notion of the 'wisdom' of the organism; indeed, this can be regarded as the fundamental doctrine of Hunter's physiological system. An influential and persistent historiographic tradition has maintained that Hunter was the first to grasp that surgical practice did not rest upon clinical experience alone, but that it must also be informed by knowledge of physiological and pathological principles if it were to attain its full potential. William Hunter in his anatomical and surgical lectures developed the same strategy in a much more elaborate form. It was a common stratagem among Hunter's eulogists to portray pre-Hunterian surgery as purely 'empirical' in character, in contrast to the 'scientific' approach of the post-Hunterian era. Hunter's conception of a pathological physiology is illustrated by his discussion of the topic of blood coagulation. Hunter's stress upon the natural curative powers of the body was not, therefore, idiosyncratic.