Lives of the fellows

Andrew (Sir) Clark

b.28 October 1826 d.6 November 1893
BART MRCS(1844) MD Aberd(1854) Hon LLD Aberd Edin Cantab Hon MD Dubl FRCP(1858) FRS(1885)

Andrew Clark was born at Aberdeen. His mother did not survive his birth, and his father, Andrew Clark, a doctor practising at St. Fergus near Peterhead, died when Clark was only seven. Two uncles took charge of his education and he was apprenticed to a doctor in Dundee at the age of thirteen. During his apprenticeship he attended the Tay Square Academy and the wards of the Royal Infirmary. In 1842, and again from 1843 to 1846, he studied at Edinburgh as an extra-academical student, taking the English M.R.C.S. diploma in 1844 and developing a keen interest in pathology, inspired by Hughes Bennett. The threat of tuberculosis inclined him to a naval career, and from 1846 to 1853 he held a commission as an assistant surgeon, being employed on pathological work at Haslar for the greater part of his service. The last two years, when he was on half-pay, were occupied with a voyage to Madeira to recruit his health and with private practice at Alverstoke.

In 1853 Clark applied successfully for the new curatorship of the museum at the London Hospital. His enthusiasm for the task of reorganising the museum, however, lost its impetus a year later when he was elected assistant physician to the Hospital, although he continued to hold his first office for a further eight years. His new appointment revealed the true nature of his genius and, although he never failed to stress the value of pathological aids, it was as a practising physician that Clark quickly built up a huge reputation for himself, both in the London Hospital’s wards and in private practice. He held the lectureship in physiology from 1856 to 1862 and, jointly, the lectureship in medicine from 1865 to 1870, and was promoted to full physician in 1866. He was made consulting physician in 1886 but continued to give lectures in the capacity of emeritus professor of clinical medicine, till his death. Clark was assistant physician at the City of London Hospital for diseases of the chest from 1855 to 1856 and in 1892 became its consulting physician. He also held this latter office at the East London Hospital for Children. He obtained the Aberdeen M.D. degree in 1854.

Clark was a distinguished President of the Royal College of Physicians from 1888 until his death. He had earlier delivered the Croonian Lectures in 1867 and the Lumleian Lectures in 1885 and served as Censor. He was Lettsomian Lecturer at the Medical Society of London in 1860 and became its president in 1871. He was made a baronet in 1883 and elected an F.R.S. in 1885.

Clark left little written work to commemorate himself, and he owed his fame as London’s leading physician entirely to his abilities as a practising consultant. These were manifested in his remarkable powers of observation, thoroughness and scientific approach— although he had little knowledge of science. His method of expression, verbal and written, was precise and distinctive. Such qualities inclined him to overestimate the influence of wrong habits of living on disease and to supply set formulae to meet the problems of every case. He was a man of serious turn of mind who never played a game and for relaxation turned to theology and speculative philosophy. The Gladstones were among his friends and patients— he made their acquaintance at the time of the cholera epidemic of 1866—and not the least of his achievements was to preserve the Grand Old Man into a ripe and vigorous old age.

He married, firstly, in 1851 Seton Mary Percy, daughter of Capt. John Forster, R.N, by whom he had one son and two daughters, and, secondly, in 1862 Helen Annette, daughter of Alphonso Doxat of Leytonstone, by whom he had one son and two daughters. He died in London and, after a service in Westminster Abbey, was buried at Essendon, Hertfordshire, where his country home was situated.

G H Brown

[Lancet, 1893; B.M.J., 1893; Times, 13 Nov. 1893; W. H. Allchin, Life of Sir Andrew Clark (MS), in R.C.P Library; D.N.B., 1st Suppl, ii, 23]

(Volume IV, page 93)

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