Biology KS3/4: Brian Cox on 18th century surgeon John Hunter and public engagement in science

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.

Contains scenes which some viewers may find upsetting. Teacher review recommended prior to use in class.

Teacher Notes

Useful as a discussion point for the importance of public opinion in scientific practice: how do we find out about recent discoveries in science?

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

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

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Biology or Science.

This topic appears in KS3/GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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