Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Hunt, Alan Henderson (1908 - 1970)

MRCS 1934; FRCS 1937; BM BCh Oxford 1935; DM 1941; MCh 1942; LRCP 1934.

19 November 1908
4 July 1970
General surgeon


Born in Surrey, on 19 November 1908, the second son of Edmund Henderson Hunt, MCh, FRCS (Eng) and Laura Mary, daughter of Sir James Buckingham. His elder brother, John, was elected a Fellow of the College ad eundem for services as a co-opted Member of Council and to medicine.

Educated at Charterhouse, where, by reason of his unobtrusive industry and concentration, he was affectionately given the nickname of "The Mole". He won a closed Science Exhibition to Balliol. At Oxford he obtained the Theodore Williams Scholarship in anatomy, played cricket, and was full-back in the team that won the Intercollegiate Soccer Cup in 1931. Later he became a keen mountaineer, in spite of an arthritic hip.

After his pre-clinical training in Oxford he entered St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School, where he was elected a Luther Holden Scholar and became second assistant in the professorial surgical unit under Sir James Paterson Ross. During the second world war his early interest in orthopaedics and the surgery of trauma proved invaluable during the London blitz. He joined the RAMC as a surgical specialist and became a senior surgical officer in a Special Service Brigade (Commandos) with the rank of Major.

After demobilization he was appointed surgeon to the Metropolitan Hospital, then St Bartholomew's Hospital and later to the Royal Marsden Hospital. He was senior surgeon at the latter hospitals at the time of his death. His original contributions to surgical thought and technique and his publications covered a wide field, including cancer of the jaw. He was also President of the Section of Proctology of the Royal Society of Medicine. As a young surgeon he investigated the effect of ascorbic acid upon wound healing in mice and man. He did not, however, reveal the fact that he himself was the human experimental animal. He compared the healing of a self-inflicted wound during an ascorbutic stage and when he was on a normal diet.

Alan Hunt became mainly interested in abdominal surgery, especially the diseases of the liver and spleen, and achieved an international reputation. He was one of the first British surgeons to perfect the technique of operations for portal hypertension and reported the results of over 700 operations. His book on this condition became a standard work. A superb teacher, both of undergraduates and postgraduates, he attracted many overseas visitors. Though a dexterous and courageous surgeon, his enthusiasm and determination were always tempered with caution and sound commonsense.

He was blessed with a boundless sense of humour, coupled with great understanding of his fellow men and deep compassion for his patients. At the Royal College of Surgeons he was Hunterian Professor, Jacksonian Prize winner and, after 6 years of service on the Court of Examiners, he became Chairman in 1966. He was elected to the Council in 1965, an appointment which he cherished, being a Member of Council at the time of his death. Both Alan and his brother had the unique experience of serving on the Council during the same year.

Among his non-professional interests were Freemasonry - becoming a Past Senior Grand Deacon - music and gardening. He died on 4 July 1970 aged 61.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1970, 3, 169, 230;Lancet 1970, 2, 157;Ann Roy Coll Surg Engl 1970, 2, 119; St Bart's Hosp J 1970, 74, 296].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England