Biology KS3/4: John Hunter and public engagement in science

Professor Brian Cox describes how John Hunter engaged the public in his work in order to garner public support.

In 18th century Britain, Hunter was a pioneer in surgery, but he had developed his skills by using bodies that were legitimately obtained from executions, and also illegally from grave-robbing.

This made him unpopular with members of the public.

He founded a museum to display his work to the public in the belief that fear of his work was due to ignorance.

This allowed members of the public to confront their moral objections to his work.

This short film is from the BBC series, Science Britannica.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter, we strongly advise teacher viewing before watching with your pupils.

Teacher Notes

This short film could be useful as a discussion starter for the importance of public opinion in scientific practice and how we find out about recent discoveries in science.

Students could be encouraged to monitor new discoveries through the news over a period of time and share them with the class.

This could also be used as an introduction to how surgical techniques and scientific inquiry has developed over time, and a point of debate about ethics and science.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is relevant for teaching biology at KS3 and KS4/GCSE.

Appears in OCR, Edexcel, AQA, WJEC in England and Wales, CCEA GCSE in Northern Ireland and SQA National 4 in Scotland.

More from Science Britannica:

Targeted research
Global warming resistant GM crops
How CERN helps us understand the Big Bang
Sir Isaac Newton and the scientific method
John Tyndall and blue skies research
Who was Henry Cavendish?
Who was Humphry Davy?
William Perkin and making scientific discoveries by chance