John Hull (1761-1843) was born on 30 September 1761 at Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, the eldest son of John Hull (c.1725-1768), himself an apothecary and surgeon. Hull was orphaned at quite an early age and at sixteen became apprenticed to Mr Joseph Lancashire, a surgeon, man-midwife, and apothecary in Blackburn, Lancashire. It was here that he first began to attend lying-in cases, which would later become the most prominent part of his career. Upon completion of his apprenticeship Hull travelled to London to qualify with the Corporation of Surgeons, which he succeeded in doing in 1784. The student notes amongst his surviving manuscripts indicate that he studied medicine at St Thomas' Hospital, London for a period of at least one year during 1783-1784, if not longer, studying under prominent physicians such as George Fordyce (1736-1802) and Henry Cline (1750-1827). After qualifying in 1784 he returned to Blackburn where he went into partnership with his former master, Mr Lancashire, and his success there enabled him to buy the practice. In 1791 he married the sister of Dr William Winstanley. Hull went on to pursue further medical studies at Leiden, Netherlands where he graduated with his MD on 18 May 1792, his dissertation being entitled 'De Catharticis'. Aside from his medical education Hull was a highly educated man and was well versed in Latin, Greek, French, German, and Italian.
After returning to the UK he is known to have continued to practise in Blackburn for a time before coming to Manchester in 1796 and by 1797 at least is known to have been practising from 8 St James' Square. Later sources show him to be registered at 30 Mosley Street. His move to Manchester was in part predicated by the lack of a lying-in hospital in Blackburn, hindering the development of his interest in obstetrics. In Manchester he established himself as a highly respected obstetrician and engaged in active debate about best practice, in particular where his belief that caesarean sections were sometimes necessary and useful was concerned. Supported in his view by the staff of the Lying-in Hospital, now St Mary's Hospital, he was however criticised by staff at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, in particular William Simmons, who published an attack on the operation. Hull in turn published a response and the debate continued for several years.
Hull joined the staff of the Manchester Lying-in Hospital in 1804 as well as becoming part of its medical committee. A year later in 1805 the senior post of physician was created at the hospital and immediately awarded to Hull who held the post until his retirement in 1837. He also worked closely with Manchester's other medical establishments and he is listed as the consulting physician to the Institution for Curing Diseases of the Eye, now the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, as well as being involved in its foundation in 1814. In addition he played a role in 1819 in the founding of the Manchester and Salford Lock Hospital and Dispensary for Unfortunate Women, later St Luke's Hospital, alongside Joseph Jordan, William Simmons, William Brigham, and Michael Stewart. The catalyst of the Lock Hospital's foundation had been the fact that the Manchester Royal Infirmary would not accept venereal cases, much to the admonishment of several of the city's physicians. Although never known to have been involved in the teaching, Hull made great efforts to see that lectures at Jordan's new medical school were recognised, and thus played a part in the establishment of the first provincial medical school.
Hull was admitted an Extra-Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in June 1806, and a Licentiate in June 1819. He was also involved in local associations being an active member of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, which at the time was the only real place where Manchester physicians and other members of the medical profession could meet and discuss professional issues. It was here where the controversies over the caesarean section played out, and Hull was co-secretary for many years before being elected president in 1809. He, however, stood down from this role fairly swiftly in favour of Thomas Henry, one of the Society's co-founders, who was soon re-elected. The need for a dedicated medical society was met some years later and Hull headed up the initiative to establish the Manchester Medical Society in 1834 and notably served as their first president from 1834 to 1838. Upon its foundation Hull presented a large number of books to the Society to help establish what would eventually become a very large library.
In addition he was a keen botanist, a role for which he was well known and is evidenced through some of his publications and his surviving manuscripts. He was also a fellow of the Linnaean Society.
Hull died on 17 March 1843 at Tavistock Square, London, the house of his eldest son, William Winstanley Hull (1794-1873) who became a noted liturgical writer and hymnologist. In addition Hull was the grandfather in law to the writer Edith Maud Hull (1880-1947) and the great grandfather of writer Cecil Winstanley Hull (d.1980).
See MMM/23/1/23 for a memoir of Hull's life written by Thomas Radford.