Lives of the fellows

James Clark

b.14 December 1879 d.13 December 1971
MBE(1969) MB ChB Aberd(1904) MD(1908) DPH Lond(1908) MRCP(1908) FRCP(1936)

James Clark was the son of a farmer in Ayrshire. A brother also entered the medical profession. After qualifying in Aberdeen, Clark was first a member of the junior staff in the Royal Northern Hospital, then had a short spell in general practice in Cumberland, before joining the staff of St. Pancreas Infirmary in 1908. In 1912 he was appointed Medical Superintendent of the Fir Vale Hospital, Sheffield, where he remained for many years, including service in the RAMC in World War 1 as Commanding Officer of the Military Wing of the Fir Vale Hospital.

The Fir Vale Hospital became divided into a general acute hospital (City General) and an Infirmary for the aged and mentally subnormal (Fir Vale) in 1926, and James Clark was the superintendent of the combined hospitals from then onwards and during World War 2. He was almost single-handed for some years with responsibilities in the general hospital for medicine and surgery, though assisted by an obstetrician. Later he was joined first by a physician and then a surgeon who assisted him in the care of approximately 1000 acute beds. During the second world war James Clark was deputy Medical Officer of Health for Sheffield and a Lecturer in Public Health in the Medical School. With the advent of the National Health Service the City Hospital ceased to be a hospital of the Local Authority and passed under the care of the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board. Yet Dr. Clark remained in administrative charge until his retirement in 1949. He witnessed the beginning of an astonishing upgrading of the hospital in terms of medical staff, specialist services of all kinds and teaching. His hospital, for he was always identified with the City (now the Northern) General Hospital, became a University Hospital in 1970. It then had Professorial units in Medicine, Surgery and Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

James Clark was a tall, kindly, courteous and dignified man. Even at the height of his responsibilities he made a night round of the entire hospital and it was said that he believed in hard work and no holidays. One of his favourite sayings was "The beds in this hospital are for the sick people of Sheffield" and it was undoubtedly he who laid the foundations of a hospital which has now achieved full teaching hospital status. He was a truly dedicated physician.

Sir Charles Stuart-Harris

[Brit.med.J., 1972, 1, 697]

(Volume VI, page 103)

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