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Hunt, John Henderson, Lord Hunt of Fawley (1905-1987)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2134 B/HUN
Held at: Royal College of General Practitioners
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Full title: Hunt, John Henderson, Lord Hunt of Fawley (1905-1987)
Date(s): 1932-1988
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 5 boxes
Name of creator(s): John Henderson Hunt, Lord Hunt of Fawley (1905-1987)
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

John Henderson Hunt was born on 3 July 1905 in Secunderabad, India, eldest son of Edmund Hunt, surgeon in charge of staff of the Nizam of Hyderabad's State Railways and Chief Medical Officer of the Railway Hospital, Secunderabad, and Laura Mary Hunt, daughter of a tea plantation owner. Hunt grew up in England with his mother and his siblings, whilst his father lived and worked in India until 1931, attending pre-preparatory school and then Temple Grove Preparatory School, Eastbourne. He was then educated at Charterhouse School from 1918. In 1923 Hunt achieved an exhibition to Balliol College, University of Oxford, where he graduated with a 2:1 in Physiology in 1927. Hunt was awarded the Radcliffe Scholarship in Pharmacology, St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School. He was registered BM, BCh, MRCS/LRCP with the General Medical Council in 1931.

Hunt worked as House Surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital in 1931 and did a locum tenens at Duffield, Derbyshire. In 1933 he became second assistant at the Medical Unit at St Bartholomew's Hospital and in 1934, for two years, he was House Physician at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases. In 1936 he went on to be Chief Assistant to the Consultative Neurological Clinic at St Bartholomew's Hospital. In 1934 he passed the membership examination of the Royal College of Physicians, and in 1935 he obtained his DM Thesis, University of Oxford, on the subject of Raynaud's disease, a published work of the thesis appeared the following year in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine.

Hunt chose to become a general practitioner, and in 1937 joined Dr George Cregan in practice as a partner at 83 Sloane Street, London. The reaction of his teachers and colleagues was that he was 'committing professional suicide' (John Horder) as the differences in education, pay and status were indeed considerable. During the Second World War Hunt served as a neurologist in the Royal Air Force, at Blackpool and Ely, held the rank of Wing Commander. When the war was over he returned to set up independent practice at 54 Sloane Street, London. The practice had its own laboratory and x-ray department. Hunt choose not to enter the National Health Service (NHS) in 1948, continuing to run a private service, having an already well-established clientele since establishing the practice at the end of the war.

Although Hunt had not entered the NHS he was acutely aware of the uncertain and unsatisfactory position of general practitioners during the crucial NHS planning stages. It was felt that there was justification for general practitioners to have a college of their own. The notion of an academic body to promote the efficiency of general practice had been proposed as long ago as 1844, but to no effect. However, over a hundred years later the ideas were again being put forward.

In October 1951 Hunt and Dr Fraser Rose wrote a letter, published in the British Medical Journal and The Lancet, proposing 'a possible College of General Practice'. Memoranda published two weeks later provoked both favourable and unfavourable responses, with many influential people, particularly the Presidents of the established Royal Colleges, expressing their opposition. Hunt brought together a group of influential figures, including former Minister of Health, Sir Henry Willink, to form a steering committee which looked into the practical aims and needs of the proposed institution. The Steering Committee, with Hunt as Secretary, persevered and on 19 November 1952 Memorandum and Articles of Association of the College of General Practitioners were signed and in December the Committee's Report was published. Within six months the College had 2000 doctors as members, and had widespread support of both medical and non-medical bodies. Hunt continued his steadfast commitment to, and hard work for, the College, displaying determined leadership as the first Honorary Secretary of Council, 1953-66, and then as President, 1967-70, and developing the College's role and influence both at home and abroad, throughout the rest of his professional life. In the College's first annual report the Foundation Council of the College put on record its appreciation of Hunt, 'in the events leading up to the formation of the steering committee, Dr John Hunt was mainly responsible for bringing together the right individuals and for enlisting the interest and support of the leaders of medical opinion everywhere... the measure of success so far achieved by the College would not have been possible without him' (1st Annual Report 1953, pp.12-13).

'A History of the Royal College of General Practitioners', edited by Hunt, along with John Fry and Robin Pinsent, tells the story of the College's first 25 years. Published in 1983 this was the last of many publications for which Hunt was responsible. A complete collection of his published papers is held at the Royal College of General Practitioners, Princes Gate, London. The writings cover many topics including the foundation of the College.

Hunt was honoured by both medical and lay organisations worldwide, he was appointed CBE in 1970 and in 1973 was given life peerage, as Lord Hunt of Fawley, in the House of Lords. He participated in many debates on medical affairs, with a voice of authority gained from his wide experience, and was responsible for steering the Medical Act of 1978 through the Upper House. It has been suggested though that the keynote speech of his life however was his Lloyd Roberts Lecture, 'The Renaissance of General Practice', delivered in 1957, which illuminated proposals for the future work of the College and of general practitioners. Hunt received many awards including the W Victor Johnson Medal, in 1973, when he was made Honorary Member of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, and the Gold Medal of the BMA in 1980.

Hunt was supported throughout his career by his wife Elisabeth who he had married in 1941. They had five children, two daugthers, a son who died in childhood, and two twin sons, both of whom became general practitioners. Hunt was forced to retire due to failing eye sight in 1981, and died 6 years later on 28 December 1987 at his home in Fawley, near Henley-on-Thames.


Scope and content/abstract:

Professional papers relating to Hunt's involvement in the Royal College of General Practitioners, 1948-79, which he was fundamental in founding, including articles and correspondence published in the lay and medical press, correspondence, committee minutes and notes, covering his role proposing the College in 1951, his work as Honorary Secretary of the Steering Committee in 1952, and of the Foundation Council and then Council of the College, 1953-66, then as President, 1967-70, and during his remaining years, 1971-78, when he continued to be involved with the College's development; papers relating to his life peerage, as a member of the House of Lords, including correspondence, speeches and articles, 1973-83; papers relating to Hunt's other commitments to various institutions and societies, including St Bartholomew's Hospital, the British Medical Association, Royal Society of Medicine, Medical Society of London, the Armed Forces, Department of Health, and the Hunterian Society, as President, member or adviser, mostly articles produced as a result of his involvement with these bodies, 1932-74; and biographic material relating to his personal life, including his curriculum vitae, bibliography, personal notes, and publications resulting from his DM Thesis, undertaken at the Univeristy of Oxford in 1935, 1935-1988.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:


Conditions governing access:

Access is at the discretion of the Royal College of General Practitioners. Requests for access should be made in writing to The Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London, SW7 1PU

Conditions governing reproduction:

Requests for reproduction should be made in writing to The Archivist, Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London, SW7 1PU

Finding aids:

Database down to file level - can be consulted in the library at Royal College of General 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London, SW7 1PU.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Papers relating to Steering Committee and foundation of the College donated by Hunt after the College moved to its current premises at 14 Princes Gate in 1962; Part of collection donated by Dr Jonathan Hunt, son of John Hunt, c.mid 1980s [possibly 19 October 1983]; Other parts of the collection, consisting of material relating to Hunt, taken from the College records and integrated with the Hunt papers.

Immediate source of acquisition:

See archival history

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

'Lord Hunt of Fawley Papers and Publications', Volumes 1-3, 1932 - 1983, held at Royal College of General Practitioners, 14 Princes Gate, Hyde Park, London;

'The Writings of John Hunt', John Horder (ed) (Royal College of General Practitioners, 1992);

'John Hunt A Biographical Memoir by John Horder' John Horder (reprinted from 'the Writings of John Hunt' by the Heritage Committee (Royal College of General Practitioners, 2002);

'A History of the Royal College of General Practitioners: the First 25 Years', John Fry, Lord Hunt of Fawley and R.J.F.H. Pinsent (eds.) (RCGP, 1983)

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Catalogued by Katherine Williams November 2002.

Rules or conventions:
National Council on Archives, rules for the constuction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997; ISAD(G), Second Edition, 2000

Date(s) of descriptions:
November 2002

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