Lives of the fellows

Jack Naylor Hunt

b.29 April 1917 d.14 April 1986
LMSSA(1940) MB BS Lond(1945) PhD(1949) DSc(1954) MD(1956) MRCP(1966) FRCP(1973)

Jack Naylor Hunt, known as ‘Michael’ to his intimates and affectionately as ‘Hunt’ by the rest of his colleagues, was born in London. His father, Charles Frank Hunt, was an engineer and his mother, Mary, was the daughter of James Moss, a builder. He was educated at elementary school and the Royal Masonic School before entering Guy’s as a pre-clinical student. He gained his LMSSA in 1940, spent the war years in the Royal Navy, and graduated MB BS in 1945. He returned to Guy’s as demonstrator in the physiology department, became reader in 1955, and university professor and head of the department of physiology in 1962, where he remained until 1977 when he left England to take up a similar post at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA. Arriving in the United States he took - and passed first time - all the preclinical and clinical examinations necessary for medical practice in Texas, at the age of 60.

During his years at Guy’s his standards of teaching and research were exceptionally high, and he expected similar standards both from his colleagues and from those whom he taught. He introduced new methods in teaching: multiple choice questions, interpretive questions based on clinical papers, and practical classes where students ran a research project for a full term in conjunction with a member of the staff. He could be critical if anyone was found wanting and former students will remember him as the professor who insisted that they arrive for classes and lectures on time; lecturers will remember him as the person who insisted that the students be respected, and physiologists will remember him as the man who would ask a penetrating question at the end of a paper read to the Physiological Society. Yet he was always ready and willing to help anyone trying to get a research project started, or someone with a new idea for a practical class. He left the department at Guy’s when the UGC was seriously considering severe financial cut-backs, and unfortunately Hunt’s predictions proved correct.

An extremely able man, with an original and inquiring mind, his thirst for knowledge was insatiable - whether it was physiology, Limoges enamel, or the price of a vintage Rolls. He was a fine exponent of Claude Bernard’s premise that physiology represents the greater part of experimental medicine. His primary interest was the upper alimentary tract, and in particular the stomach. He did much to increase understanding of the control mechanisms governing its emptying. His view was always clinically oriented; a view which received recognition when he was awarded membership, and later fellowship of the College. He fully deserved to be counted among the great international figures of the 1960s, such as M I Grossman [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.231] C F Code and R A Gregory. His intellectual ability made him impatient with fools, but he was always ready to change his mind if there were sufficient scientific evidence to prove him incorrect.

‘Michael’ Hunt was by nature shy and extremely reserved; some people considered him difficult and even rather abrasive, but on close acquaintance he proved to be warm, charming and witty, with a keen and uninhibited sense of humour. Whatever his current interest it became a passion, whether it was breeding sheep at his island home in Nevis, sailing a catamaran, restoring old Georgian houses, or extolling the hypothesis that drinking water with a meal delayed gastric emptying and so aided body weight loss.

In 1948 he married Anne-Claire Haley, daughter of William John Haley, an editor. There were no children of the marriage.

Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

[Brit.med.J., 1986,292,1535; Lancet, 1986,1,1337; Guy's Hosp. Gaz., 1977,91,50-51; 1986,100,147]

(Volume VIII, page 233)

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