Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Hunt, James (1833-1869)

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HUNT, JAMES (1833–1869), ethnologist and writer on stammering, son of Thomas Hunt (1802–1851) [q.v.], was born at Swanage, Dorsetshire, in 1833, and after some years of medical study continued his father's specialty as a curer of stammering, and published in 1854 a book on the cure of stammering, with a memoir of his father (3rd edit. 1857). Among those to whom he rendered much benefit was Charles Kingsley. He took a house at Hastings, in which he received a large number of patients. His attention having early been directed to anthropology, he joined the Ethnological Society in 1854. From 1859 to 1862 he was its honorary secretary. He was, however, unsuccessful in his endeavours to broaden its basis so as to include the full range of modern anthropology. Many members did not like free speculation about man's origin and antiquity. Hunt consequently in 1863 founded the Anthropological Society, of which he was the first president. He also published and edited on his own responsibility the ‘Anthropological Review,’ and the society undertook the translation of several valuable books on anthropological subjects, Hunt himself editing Carl Vogt's ‘Lectures on Man,’ 1865. His paper on ‘The Negro's Place in Nature,’ first read at the British Association meeting at Newcastle, 1863, attracted much attention, as it defended the subjection and even slavery of the negro, and supported belief in the plurality of human species. About the same time Hunt made strenuous endeavours to get anthropology recognised as a distinct section or subsection of the British Association, ethnology being then grouped with geography, and anthropology being largely ignored. His combativeness was partially responsible for his temporary failure; but in 1866, with Professor Huxley's aid, anthropology became a distinct department of Section D (biology), and in 1883 was made a separate section. He resigned the presidency of the Anthropological Society in 1867, when the members numbered over five hundred, remaining in office as its ‘director’ or chief executive officer. He was re-elected president in 1868, but had to meet an acrimonious personal attack on his conduct of the society and of the ‘Anthropological Review,’ which he had carried on at a heavy loss to himself. His conduct was amply vindicated, but the controversy told on his health. In August 1869 he went to the meeting of the British Association at Exeter, but died of inflammation of the brain at Ore Court, Hastings, on the 29th of that month. He left a widow and five children. Without being profound, he was a serious student, who did much to place anthropology on a sound basis; but his freedom of speech, quick temper, and sceptical views on religion roused much personal hostility.

Hunt wrote: 1. ‘A Manual of the Philosophy of Voice and Speech, especially in relation to the English Language and the Art of Public Speaking,’ London, 1859. 2. ‘Stammering and Stuttering; their Nature and Treatment,' London, 1861; 7th edition, 1870. His presidential addresses to the Anthropological Anthropological Society and his memoirs 'On the Negro's Place in Nature' (Anthropological Memoirs, i. 1–64) and on 'Ethno-climatology' (Trans. Ethnol. Soc. Lond. new ser. 1863, ii. 50–79), and others printed in the 'Anthropological Review' and the 'Journal of the Anthropological Society,' are worthy of attention.

Obituary notice in Journal of Anthropological Society, April 1870; President's Address (Dr. J. Beddoe), pp. lxxix–lxxxiii; Athenæum, 1868, ii. multis locis from 210 to 843; obituary notice by Dr. E. Dally, with full list of Hunt's papers, in Mémoires de la Société d'Anthropologie de Paris, 2nd ser. 1873, vol. i. pp. xxvi–xxxvi.]

G. T. B.