Clark, William (1788-1869) (DNB00)

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CLARK, WILLIAM, M.D. (1788–1869), professor of anatomy, born at Newcastle-on-Tyne 5 April 1788, second son of John Clark, M.D. [q. v.], was educated at a private school at Welton in Yorkshire, and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1804. He was elected scholar of the house in 1807, and in 1808 proceeded to the degree of B.A., when he was seventh wrangler. In the following year he obtained one of the members' prize essays, and was elected fellow of his college. Clark was a good classical scholar, but his success at the first election after his degree when he could compete was mainly due to an elegant translation of a passage from one of Pindar's 'Isthmian Odes' into English verse.

Soon after he had obtained a fellowship Clark began the studies required for a medical degree. He resided for a time in London, where he attended the lectures of Dr. Abernethy and others, and in 1813 obtained a license to practice. Arrangements were afterwards made for him to accompany Lord Byron to Greece and the East in 1813, but, after several delays, the tour was finally abandoned at the close of the year.

In 1814 the professorship of anatomy in the university of Cambridge became vacant by the death of Sir Busick Harwood. Clark offered himself as a candidate, but was defeated by John Haviland, who obtained 150 votes to 135 given to Clark, John Thomas Woodhouse securing 60. On this occasion Byron came up to Cambridge to vote for Clark, and was cheered by the undergraduates in the senate house. In 1817 the professorship of anatomy became again vacant by the election of Haviland to the regius professorship of physic. Clark and Woodhouse were again candidates, but the latter retired before the day of election, and his opponent was elected without opposition. He took the degree of M.D. in 1827, and was made a fellow of the Royal Society in 1836.

In 1818 Clark was appointed physician to Sir Mark Masterman Sykes, bart., and in his company made an extended tour through Italy and Sicily, which occupied the greater part of two years. During the journey he formed the acquaintance of several foreign men of science, studied the museums of Italy, and made arrangements with Caldani of Florence for the execution of a series of wax models of the anatomy of the human body, which are still in use in the medical school at Cambridge. The purchase of these was authorised by the university while he was still abroad (grace, 1 Dec. 1819), provided their cost did not exceed 200l.

When Clark was first elected professor of anatomy, his duty was confined to the deliverance of an annual course of lectures on the anatomy and physiology of the human body, and in 1822 he published an 'Analysis' of such a course. This work is an outline of a complete treatise on the subject, which the student might fill up for himself with references to standard works. From 1814 to 1832 the anatomical collections belonging to the university were contained in a small building opposite to Queens' College. In 1832 they were removed to somewhat better buildings in Downing Street, and the professor was then enabled to commence the acquisition of that extensive museum of comparative anatomy which has now become one of the best out of London. As specimens accumulated he enlarged the scope of his lectures by referring to the structure of other mammalian forms besides man, and by laying before his class the latest results of foreign research. In fact, he laid the foundation of the school of biological science at Cambridge. He always lectured from the actual subject, and made the dissections himself with singular neatness. On the establishment of the natural sciences tripos in 1848 he transferred the instruction in human anatomy to Mr. Humphry, retaining that of zoology and comparative anatomy. The extended scope of the teaching rendered a corresponding extension of the museum necessary, and the professor, with characteristic liberality, lost no opportunity of increasing the collection at his own expense. In 1866 he resigned the professorship, the duties of which had for some years been discharged by a deputy, on the creation of a second chair of zoology and comparative anatomy, a scheme which he had pressed upon the university commission in 1852, thinking it desirable that the two chairs should be filled simultaneously.

Clark took holy orders in 1818, and in 1824 was presented by the master and fellows of his college to the small vicarage of Arrington in Cambridgeshire. This he exchanged in the following year for the vicarage of Wymeswold in Leicestershire. Neither of these pieces of preferment entailed residence. In 1826 he was presented by the same society to the valuable rectory of Guiseley, near Leeds. Though nonresident, except for about three months, on an average, in each year, he kept a watchful eye on all that was going forward in the parish, took infinite pains to select a really good curate, restored the church, built schools, made the rectory-house habitable, and in all ways allowed his zeal for the place. He held this living until 1869, when failing health compelled him to resign it. He died on 15 Sept. 1869. He married in 1827 Mary, daughter of Robert Darling Willis, M.D., by whom he left one son.

Besides the 'Analysis of a Course of Lectures on the Anatomy and Physiology of the Human Body' (1822), above referred to, Clark published: 'A Case of Human Monstrosity, with a Commentary,' in the 'Trans. Camb. Phil. Soc.' (1831); 'Report on Animal Physiology,' 1834, in the 'Trans. Brit. Assoc.;' a 'Handbook of Zoology,' translated from the Dutch of J. Van der Hoeveu (1856-8); and 'Catalogue of the Osteological Portion of Specimens contained in the Anatomical Museum of the University of Cambridge,' 1802.

[Admission Books of Trin. Coll. Cambridge; documents in Univ. Registry; Macmillan's Mag. January 1870.]

J. W. C.