[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
April 6, 1970

The Much-Maligned Doctor: "Sir" John Hill (1707-1775)

Author Affiliations

From the Department of English, University of California, Los Angeles.

JAMA. 1970;212(1):103-108. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170140059010

My first encounter with Sir John Hill occurred in my PhD orals when an examiner asked me a question about this 18th-century figure. I had never heard of this Hill nor even seen his name in print. I remember leaving the oral, heading directly for the library, and learning, to my complete astonishment, that John Hill was a well-known apothecary, physician, botanist, geologist, antiquarian, and the author of more than 90 literary and scientific works, and—not least—a journalist whose daily column in The London Advertiser and Literary Gazette rendered his name a household word to Londoners of the 1750s.

How then did the obscurity of this bright light of the 1750s come about? An offensive exhibition of superiority together with a highly successful career netted Hill a host of enemies, some of whom denigrated his character, after his death in 1775, by writing brief but distorted biographies. He was indeed