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Home, Sir Everard and Abernethy, John: Notes on Surgery Lectures

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0218
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
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Full title: Home, Sir Everard and Abernethy, John: Notes on Surgery Lectures
Date(s): 1811-1812
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Home | Sir | Everard | 1756-1832 | 1st Baronet | surgeon
Abernethy | John | 1764-1831 | surgeon


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Abernethy was born in Coleman Street, London, in 1764. He was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar school, and at the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to Charles Blicke, surgeon to St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Abernethy remained at Bart's for the rest of his career, being appointed assistant surgeon in 1787, and promted to full surgeon in 1815. During the 1790s Abernethy published several papers on a variety of anatomical topics. On the strength of these contributions he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1796. Between 1814 and 1817 he served as Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons. Abernethy also offered private lectures in anatomy in a house in Bartholomew Close, near to the hospital. The governors of Bart's then built a lecture theatre within the hospital to accommodate his classes. In 1824 Thomas Wakley, editor of the newly established journal The Lancet, published Abernethy's lectures without his permission. Abernethy sought an injunction but was unsuccessful, and remained resentful about the incident. Abernethy had himself attended the lectures of John Hunter, with whom he was also personally acquainted, and after Hunter's death he professed himself to be the spokesman for Hunter's physiological and pathological views. He died in 1831.

Sir Everard Home was born in Hull, Yorkshire, in 1756. He was educated at Westminster School, and became a surgical pupil of his brother-in-law John Hunter (1728-1793), surgeon at St George's Hospital, London. Home qualified through the Company of Surgeons in 1778 and was appointed assistant surgeon in the new naval hospital at Plymouth. In 1779 he went to Jamaica as staff surgeon with the army, but on returning to England in 1784 he rejoined Hunter at St George's as assistant. He was elected FRS in 1787, and in the same year he became assistant surgeon at St George's Hospital. In 1790-1791 Home read lectures for Hunter and in the following year he succeeded Hunter as lecturer in anatomy. Home joined the army in Flanders in 1793, but returned just before Hunter's sudden death in 1793. He then became surgeon at St George's Hospital and was also joint executor of Hunter's will with Matthew Baillie, Hunter's nephew. In 1793-1794 they saw Hunter's important work, On the Blood, Inflammation and Gun-Shot Wounds, through the press and in 1794 Home approached Pitt's government to secure the purchase for the nation of Hunter's large collection of anatomical and pathological specimens. After protracted negotiations the collection was purchased for £15,000 in 1799 and presented to the College of Surgeons. In 1806 the collection was moved from Hunter's gallery in Castle Street to form the Hunterian Museum at the new site of the college in Lincoln's Inn Fields. Home was chief curator and William Clift, who had worked with Hunter since 1792, was retained as resident conservator. Clift also had charge of Hunter's numerous folios, drawings, and accounts of anatomical and pathological investigations, which were essential for a clear understanding of the collection. In the years following Hunter's death Home built up a large surgical practice and published more than one hundred papers of varying quality, some very good, mainly in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. The society awarded him its Copley medal in 1807. He gave the Croonian lectures fifteen times between 1794 and 1826. As Hunter's brother-in-law and executor he had great influence at the Royal College of Surgeons where he was elected to the court of assistants in 1801, an examiner in 1809, master in 1813 and 1821, and its first president in 1822. Having, with Matthew Baillie, endowed the Hunterian oration, he was the first Hunterian orator in 1814, and again in 1822. He became Keeper and a trustee of the Hunterian Museum in 1817 and was Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the College from 1804 to 1813, and again in 1821. His Lectures on Comparative Anatomy were published in 1814 with a volume of plates from drawings by Clift. A further volume of lectures followed in 1823 accompanied by microscopical and anatomical drawings by Bauer and Clift. Two more volumes appeared in 1828. This work, although lacking in structure, is an important record of Hunter's investigations, especially the last two volumes. Home drew heavily on Hunter's work in the papers and books which he published after Hunter's death. Before the collection was presented to the Company of Surgeons in 1799 Home arranged for Clift to convey to his own house Hunter's folio volumes and fasciculi of manuscripts containing descriptions of the preparations and investigations connected with them. He promised to catalogue the collection, refusing help, but, despite repeated requests, only a synopsis appeared in 1818. B C Brodie says that Home was busily using Hunter's papers in preparing his own contributions for the Royal Society. Home himself later stated that he had published all of value in Hunter's papers and that his one hundred articles in Philosophical Transactions formed a catalogue raisonée of the Hunterian Museum. Home destroyed most of Hunter's papers in 1823. After his death in 1832, a parliamentary committee was set up to enquire into the details of this act of vandalism. Clift told this committee in 1834 that Home had used Hunter's papers extensively and had claimed that Hunter, when he was dying, had ordered him to destroy his papers. Yet Home, who was not present at Hunter's death, had kept the papers for thirty years. Clift also declared that he had often transcribed parts of Hunter's original work and drawings into papers which appeared under Home's name. Home produced a few of Hunter's papers which he had not destroyed and Clift had copied about half of the descriptions of preparations in the collection, consequently enough of Hunter's work survives to suggest that Home had often published Hunter's observations as his own. Although the full extent of Home's plagiarism cannot be determined, there is little doubt that it was considerable and this seriously damaged his reputation.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers relating to Sir Everard Home and John Abernethy, 1811-1812, comprising a volume of manuscript notes by an unknown hand, titled Notes taken at Mr Home's Lectures on the principle operations in surgery, October 1811 and Notes taken at Mr Abernethy's Lectures on Surgery, 1812.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

As outlined in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By written appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No photocopying permitted.

Finding aids:

Additional manuscripts catalogue.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated by the Dorest County Record Office in 1966.

Allied Materials

Related material:

John Abernethy (MS0053, MS0081, MS0210-MS0217), and Sir Everard Home (MS0007, MS0056/8, MS0189/1, MS00189/2, MS0205, MS0213).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Sep 2008

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