The obstetrician, the surgeon and the premature birth of the world’s first dinosaur: William Hunter and James Parkinson
Published:January 01, 2017
J. J. Liston, L. Alcalá, 2017. "The obstetrician, the surgeon and the premature birth of the world’s first dinosaur: William Hunter and James Parkinson", Geology and Medicine: Historical Connections, C.J. Duffin, C. Gardner-Thorpe, R. T. J. Moody
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William Hunter (1718–83) and James Parkinson (1755–1824) were both London-based surgeons with a passion for palaeontology, willing to advocate that the extinction of species had occurred when this viewpoint was seen as controversially arguing for a ‘flawed Creator’. Although there is no evidence that they ever corresponded, let alone met, they had mutual connections, such as Jean André de Luc (1728–1817) and William’s youngest brother, John Hunter (1728–93). More importantly, they are united by their shared interest in fossils, the expansion of both their collections through the great Leverian Auction, and the desire to write the first introductory explanatory text on fossils at a time when fossils were only beginning to be accepted as the remains of extinct organisms. This paper looks at the connections between these individuals during a period of great intellectual change, and how Parkinson’s magnum opus ‘Organic Remains’ – very much the prototype for today’s pan-collection popular books on fossils or dinosaurs – subsequently influenced Hunter’s collections in the nineteenth century, part of their posthumous mutual impact on each other’s palaeontological legacy.