Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Hunt, John Henderson, Baron Hunt of Fawley (1905 - 1987)

CBE 1970; Baron 1973; FRCS by election 1966; BM BCh Oxford 1931; DM 1935; MRCP 1934; FRCP 1964; FRCGP 1967.

3 July 1905
28 December 1987
General practitioner


John Henderson Hunt was born in India on 3 July 1905, the son of Edmund Henderson Hunt, MCh, FRCS (1874-1952, see 1952-1964 volume, page 205) and the elder brother of Alan Henderson Hunt DM, MCh, FRCS (1908-1970, see 1965-1973 volume, page 173). His mother was Laura Mary, daughter of Colonel Sir James Buckingham, secretary of the Indian Tea Association. After early education at Charterhouse he entered Balliol College, Oxford, in 1924 winning the Theodore Williams Scholarship in physiology in 1926 and the Radcliffe Scholarship in pharmacology in 1928.

He qualified in 1931 and was initially house surgeon at St Bartholomew's Hospital, later becoming chief assistant to the medical professorial unit and then house physician at the National Hospital, Queen Square. He passed the MRCP in 1934, was awarded the degree of DM Oxford in the following year and although well prepared for a career as a consultant physician he changed course and entered a general practice in Chelsea shortly before the war. From 1940 to 1945 he served as a medical specialist in the Royal Air Force with the rank of Wing-Commander and after demobilisation decided to set up his own practice in Sloane Street, fully equipped with x-ray facilities and pathological laboratory. Here he was able to undertake the care of his patients when they were admitted to nursing homes and the high standards he set attracted many patients.

The marked contrast between this level of practice and that described in the Lancet by Joseph Collings in 1950 inspired him to advocate an academic headquarters for general practice. In conjunction with Dr Fraser Rose of Preston he wrote letters to the British medical journal and the Lancet proposing the formation of such a college and received a response from over 1200 doctors wishing to enrol. He set up a steering committee under Sir Henry Willink, then Minister of Health and inaugurated the new College of General Practitioners on 19 November 1952. Initially its premises were in rooms leased at Apothecaries' Hall which he had joined as a liveryman in 1950 but the rapid growth of the College necessitated removing to larger accommodation after two years. John Hunt was honorary secretary from 1952 in 1967 when the College was granted the Royal prefix and served as President from 1967 to 1970 when he was awarded the CBE. Despite the demands of a busy general practice he found time to lecture all over the country about his College and to visit many centres overseas. He was a strong advocate of academic departments of general practice in British universities.

He also served as principal medical officer to the Provincial Mutual Life Assurance Association from 1947 to 1980 and as honorary consultant in general practice to the Royal Air Force. He was President of the Hunterian Society in 1953, of the Section of General Practice at the Royal Society of Medicine in 1956, of the Harveian Society in 1970, of the Chelsea Clinical Society in 1971 and of the Medical Society of London in 1973. He was consultant physician to St Dunstan's from 1948 to 1966, a member of the Council of St Dunstan's from 1966 to 1983, a Governor of Charterhouse School, Sutton's Hospital, Old Charterhouse and the National Hospital, Queen Square. He served on the council of the Medical Protection Society from 1948 to 1969 and as a member of the General Advisory Council of the British Broadcasting Corporation from 1958 to 1966. He was a member of the Medical Services Review Committee from 1958 to 1961 and a member of the Medical Commission on Accident Prevention in 1967. He was a co-opted member of the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons from 1957 to 1961 representing general practice and during part of this time his brother Alan Hunt served as an elected member of the Council.

He was awarded many honours which included honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society of Medicine, the Australian College of General Practice, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Singapore College of General Practice. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in April 1966, was made Gold Medallist of the British Medical Association in 1980 and in the same year was elected an honorary fellow of Green College, Oxford. He was created a Life Peer in 1973, becoming the first general practitioner to be honoured in this way. He was a regular attender of the upper house, speaking on many issues and making important contributions to the debate on the Medical Act of 1978.

In 1941 he married Elisabeth Evill and they had three sons (one of whom died in infancy) and two daughters. After retiring from practice he was afflicted with Parkinson's disease, was blind for the last seven years of his life and bedridden for the final three. He died on 28 December 1987, survived by his wife, two sons, Jonathan and Christopher, both of whom are doctors, and two daughters, Rosemary and Gillian.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Brit med J 1988, 296, 218 with portrait; Lancet, 1988, 1, 194 with portrait; Daily Telegraph, 29 December 1987; The Times 30 December 1987].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England