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The saviour of Hunter’s collection

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 24 October 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f6450
  1. Wendy Moore, freelance writer and author, London
  1. wendymoore{at}

When, during Great Britain’s war with revolutionary France, Prime Minister William Pitt was asked to buy John Hunter’s anatomical collection for the nation, he thundered, “What! Buy preparations! I have not got money enough to buy gunpowder!” That the Hunterian Museum celebrates its bicentenary this year despite Pitt’s apathy is due to the tenacity of William Clift (1775-1849).

Clift was born near Bodmin, the youngest of seven children. Orphaned at 11, he worked in a plant nursery but was sacked for drawing a caricature of the owner. Luckily his artistic skills were spotted …

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