Born in Leith (nr Edinburgh), Scotland, John Hunter was well educated. He was schooled and attended Aberdeen University. His father was in the merchant service and it is probably no surprise that he elected for a Naval Career.
It is rare for a man from humble beginning to be as well documented as John Hunter and it is equally a rare man that rises from such beginnings to become a Vice Admiral and Governor of New South Wales, Australia.
He was involved in the hydrographic survey of Quebec between 1757 and 1759. He passed his exams for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant in 1760. Throughout the 7 years War (1756–1763) he served on several ships out of Britain, in Europe and after the war he served in the East Indies, again on several different ships, during which time he became a Master.
For all that Hunter achieved as a British Naval Officer, which was considerable and covered most of the major British interests at the time, his contribution to the British Survey of the coast, waters and rivers of the North American coast was equally important.
On the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1776 Hunter was moved, at the request of Admiral Lord Richard Howe, to his Flag ship the Eagle. During this time Hunter contributed to the Survey of the coast and rivers of the North American continent. His survey of the upper reaches of the Delaware River as far as Philadelphia showing the channels and American defences is seminal and a beautiful example of both hydrographic and military surveying as one. (see Heritage Charts A309 'Plan of the River Delaware from Chester to Philadelphia')
Hunter's other, earlier, (unattributed), survey 'Plan of New York Harbour and part of North River in 1776' (Heritage Charts A212) is possibly no less important to the British war effort.
After the Revolutionary War Hunter served aboard HMS Victory (1782) and her, once again served in the Mediterranean Region. In 1786 he was appointed post Captain (HMS Sirus) and set sail for Australia. He was forced to return to England not long after but he eventually returned to Australia in 1795. His Governorship (1795-1800) was fraught with difficulties. On his return he went back to sea and was appointed Rear Admiral in 1807 and then iVice Admiral in 1810. He died in London in 1821.