Robert Hunt (scientist)

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Robert Hunt (6 September 1807 – 17 October 1887), a scientist and antiquarian, was born at Devonport, Plymouth, in the United Kingdom. He was involved in statistical, mineralogical and other studies. He died in London on 17 October 1887.

Life and work

Early life

Hunt's father, a naval officer, drowned while Robert was a youth. Robert began to study in London for the medical profession, but ill-health caused him to return to settle in Cornwall. In 1829, he published The Mount’s Bay; a descriptive poem ... and other pieces[1] but received little critical or financial success.[2]

In 1840, Hunt became secretary to the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society at Falmouth. Here he met Robert Were Fox, and carried on some physical and chemical investigations with him.


Hunt took up photography with great zeal, following Daguerre's discovery, developed the actinograph and introducing business processes. His Manual of Photography (1841, ed. 5, 1857) was the first English treatise on the subject.[3] Hunt also experimented generally on the action of light, and published Researches on Light (1844).

Keepership of Mining Records

In 1845, he accepted the invitation of Sir Henry de la Beche to become keeper of mining records at the Museum of Economic (afterwards Practical) Geology, and when the school of mines was established in 1851 he lectured for two years on mechanical science, and afterwards for a short time on experimental physics.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society in 1855.[2]

In 1858, he founded, with the Royal Cornwall Polytechnic Society, The Miners Association.

His principal work was the collection and editing of the Mineral Statistics of the United Kingdom,[4] and this he continued to the date of his retirement (1883), when the mining record office was transferred to the Home Office.

He was elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1852.[5] In 1884, he published a large volume on British Mining in which the subject was dealt with very fully from an historical as well as a practical point of view. He also edited the fifth and some later editions of Andrew Ure's Dictionary of Arts, Mines and Manufactures.

Folklore study

He also collected and wrote Popular Romances of the West of England (1865),[6] which included a record of myths and legends of old Cornwall, and proved so popular that it went through a number of editions.

Death and legacy

He died in London on 17 October 1887. A mineralogical museum at Redruth Mining School was established in his memory, but this closed in 1950 and the minerals were transferred to the School of Metalliferous Mining now the Camborne School of Mines.


  1. The Mount’s Bay; a descriptive poem ... and other pieces Penzance : J. Downing & T. Matthews, 1829, 90 Octavo pages.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Alan Pearson, ‘Hunt, Robert (1807–1887)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 16 Jan 2011
  3. Manual of Photography: reproduced online in Googlebooks.
  4. Introduction to Mineral Statistics by the Mining History Network
  5. RS Archive
  6. Popular Romances of the West of England full text online of the third edition (1903)

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