William Hunter, the older brother of noted anatomist John Hunter (1728–1793), was born in 1718 in East Kilbride, Lanarkshire, Scotland. After studying at the University of Glasgow as a young man, he became the resident pupil of William Cullen at Hamilton. Moving to London in 1741, he assisted James Douglas in his dissections for a work on the bones and became a pupil at St. George's Hospital.
Over the next forty years, William Hunter became one of the most famous anatomists, surgeons, and obstetricians in Great Britain, if not all of Europe. He was appointed the physician extraordinary to Queen Charlotte in 1764 and was a member of a number of learned societies, including the Royal Society, the Society of Antiquaries, and La Société royale de médecine and l'Académie des sciences of Paris. Later in life he founded the Hunterian Museum, featuring his anatomical and pathological specimen collection and library, now situated in Glasgow. He died in 1783 ten days after collapsing during one of his famous lectures.
William Hunter published numerous articles on anatomy, surgery and midwifery, but his most famous work was the beautiful Anatomia uteri humani gravidi, or The anatomy of the human gravid uterus. In his preface, Hunter states that many of the drawings were first prepared in 1751, and William Smellie refers to them in his Sett of anatomical tables in 1754. A majority of the drawings were executed by Jan van Rymsdyk (fl. 1750–1788), and a great number of engravers participated in the project. Hunter's text for the illustrations were later published after his death, expanded and edited by his nephew Mathew Baillie in 1794 under the title, An anatomical description of the human gravid uterus.
The anatomy of the human gravid uterus was one of the last works printed by noted Birmingham printer and typefounder, John Baskerville.
Choulant, L. History and bibliography of anatomic illustration. Trans. and annotated by Mortimer Frank. (New York: Hafner, 1962). Pp. 296-297.
Dictionary of National Biography. (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1887). Vol. 3, pp. 361-368 (Baskerville) and vol. 28, pp. 302-305 (Hunter).
Morton's Medical Bibliography (Garrison and Morton). Ed. By Jeremy Norman. Fifth ed. (Aldershot, Hants.: Scolar Press ; Brookfield, Vt., USA : Gower Pub. Co., 1991). No. 6157.
Russell, K. F. British anatomy, 1525–1800: a bibliography of works published in Britain, America and on the Continent. 2nd ed. (Winchester, Hampshire: St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1987). Introduction and no. 452.
Thornton, J.L. and Want, P.C. "Jan van Rymsdyk's illustrations of the gravid uterus drawn for Hunter, Smellie, Jenty and Denman." The Journal of audiovisual media in medicine, 1979 Jan; 2(1):11-5.