Cunningham, Daniel John (1850–1909), anatomist, was born 15 April 1850 in the manse of Crieff, Perthshire, the youngest of three sons of John Cunningham and Susan, née Porteous; there were also four daughters. John Cunningham was a minister of the Church of Scotland, and later principal of St Mary's College, St Andrews University. Daniel Cunningham was educated at Crieff Academy and then spent three years apprenticed to a Glasgow merchant, until 1870 when he decided to study medicine at Edinburgh University. While still an undergraduate, he was chosen to be a demonstrator in anatomy to his fellow students and, after graduating MD, became senior demonstrator in 1876. He left Edinburgh in 1882 to become professor of anatomy at the RCSI in Dublin. In the following year he was appointed professor of anatomy at TCD, and worked in Dublin for twenty years until 1903. He and his colleague John Mallet Purser (qv) transformed the medical school in Trinity College, particularly the teaching methods and the provision of equipment and accommodation. Cunningham was an influential and popular teacher, as well as a powerful figure in college administration. As secretary of the committee which organised Trinity's tercentenary celebrations in 1892, he displayed a ‘wonderful power of organization and management’ (Abstract of Minutes of the Royal Irish Academy). The celebrations were generally regarded as an outstanding success. He wrote a large number of important papers on human anatomy, and also published a Manual of practical anatomy in two volumes (1893–4), and worked with collaborators on the Textbook of anatomy (1902), as editor as well as author. These textbooks, particularly the Manual, which had numerous editions until 1986, were used by generations of medical students.
Cunningham's knowledge of zoology enabled him, as early as 1878, to produce an important report on the marsupials brought back from Australia by HMS Challenger, and to make detailed comparisons of human and primate anatomy, as in his 1886 paper on the lumbar curve in man and the apes, for which he received the Cunningham medal of the RIA. A paper on Cornelius Magrath, a famous eighteenth-century Irish giant, was also published by the academy in 1891. He received the honorary degrees of MD and D.Sc. from the University of Dublin, LLD from Glasgow and St Andrews and DCL from the University of Oxford, was elected a member of the RIA in 1885, and was vice-president in 1893. He was vice-president of the RDS as well as honorary secretary of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1891. In 1900 he served on a royal commission to examine the medical care of soldiers in the war in South Africa and travelled there to inspect the hospitals. Cunningham decided to return to Edinburgh in 1903, and ended his career as professor of anatomy there. He died 23 June 1909 in Edinburgh and was buried in that city. Copies of a memorial bronze by Oliver Sheppard (qv) were placed in the anatomy departments of both Trinity College and Edinburgh, and a prize and medal bearing his name have been awarded annually in Trinity College since 1913.
He married Elizabeth Cumming Brown in 1878, probably in Beith, Ayrshire, where her father, Andrew Brown, was minister. They had three sons and two daughters. One of their sons was Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham (qv) and another was Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham (1887–1983), who was born in Edinburgh, brought up in Dublin, and educated in England. He became a distinguished army officer. As general in command in east Africa in the campaign against the Italians in Abyssinia, he achieved remarkable success in four months from January 1941. After the war he was high commissioner and commander-in-chief in Palestine (1945–8), overseeing the troubled period which led up to the end of British rule.