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Feature Christmas 2016: Famous Figures

Dear John Hunter

BMJ 2016; 355 doi: (Published 14 December 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;355:i6515
  1. Christina Messiou, consultant radiologist1,
  2. Daniel Vanel, consultant radiologist2,
  3. Rob Pollock, consultant surgeon3,
  4. Martyn Cooke, conservator 4,
  5. Eleanor Moskovic, consultant radiologist1,
  6. Cate Savidge, radiographer1,
  7. Laurence King, medical physicist1,
  8. Anisha Patel, radiology fellow1,
  9. Robin L Jones, medical oncologist1
  1. 1Sarcoma Unit, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli Bologna, Bologna, Italy
  3. 3Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore, Middlesex, UK
  4. 4Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to: christina.messiou{at}

Dear Mr John Hunter,

Thank you very much for the thorough history of your patient, who presented with a mass in the thigh. We have now had the opportunity to review the case notes and specimens at the Sarcoma Unit at the Royal Marsden Hospital. We apologise for the breach of requirements on waiting times for cancer treatment, but your patient’s presentation in 1786 predated our founding in 1851.

John Hunter (1728-93)

John Hunter was one of the most distinguished surgeons of his day. He worked at St George’s Hospital in his later career and was appointed as surgeon to King George III. He is said to have died after an argument over the admission of medical students. The specimens and notes reviewed in this article are kept within the Hunterian museum at The Royal College of Surgeons.

For our records we quote the following extract from your original notes:

“A man came into St George’s Hospital, November 1786, with a hard swelling of the lower part of the thigh. It appeared to be a thickening of the bone. It was increasing very rapidly, and at this time so large as to interfere with the motion of the joint, so as to render the leg useless. The tumour was hard as bone.

The man had been in perfect health in this part, till about 5 months before, and then began to feel shooting or darting pains in that part of the thigh. The part began evidently to enlarge, although at first very slowly; but in the …

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