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Biographical entry Clark, Henry (1801 - 1861)

MRCS Aug 4th 1827; FRCS Dec 11th 1843, one of the original 300 Fellows.

10 May 1861
Bristol, UK
General surgeon


Clark's parentage is unknown, but he appears to have settled in Bristol as soon as he was qualified, perhaps as Surgeon-Apothecary at the Bristol Infirmary. The first notice of him is in 1826, when he put a notice in the local papers that his 'Theatre of Anatomy' would be opened immediately. It soon became popular, and its title was changed to that of the 'Bristol Medical and Surgical School'. His colleagues were William Herapath, the chemist, Adam Chadwick, John Braithwaite Taylor, and Nathaniel Smith. By 1830 the school was recognized by the Court of Examiners at the Royal College of Surgeons and at the Society of Apothecaries. The school remained in existence until 1840. Clark, writing about it in 1833, says: "At that time [the autumn of 1826] the anatomical department was at a very low ebb, indeed I think I had no more than seven or eight pupils who entered to my list, though I had my full proportion of the number of pupils then in attendance on Anatomical Lectures." In 1827 the lecture theatre was enlarged, the dissecting-room was improved, and eleven pupils were attracted. Clark entirely rebuilt his anatomical theatre in 1828, and the class rose to twenty-four. In the autumn of 1833 he amalgamated with a School of Anatomy and Medicine which had been established at Bristol in 1807 and thus originated the Bristol Medical School, teaching at first anatomy with forty-nine pupils, and chemistry with a class of thirty or forty. It was not, however, until 1876 that the Medical School was affiliated to the newly formed University College of Bristol.

Henry Clark was elected Surgeon to the Infirmary on Feb 23rd, 1843, with a majority of 230 votes over Thomas Green, the other candidate, in succession to Richard Smith, junr, and he held the post until Aug 18th, 1857. He died at 31 Berkeley Square, Bristol, on May 10th, 1861, and his name is perpetuated by 'The Clark Prize', for he left £500 to the Infirmary, the interest of which was to be given annually to the best third-year student at the Medical School. He appears as the first sitting figure on the left of a group of the surgeons taken in 1857.

Henry Clark was a noted lecturer and teacher who did much to establish the reputation of the Bristol School of Medicine. As a lecturer, especially on anatomy, he was clear and very impressive, readily imparting information to his pupils. He was also a good surgeon, though rather nervous as an operator. He acquired a large practice and was generally considered the most eminent surgeon in Bristol. It is said that he never took a holiday, and the amount of work he got through was so great that this seems highly probable. He was President of the local branch of the British Medical Association in 1853.

"An Address delivered to the Members of the Bath and Bristol Branch of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association on June 30th, 1853," 8vo, London, 1853.

Sources used to compile this entry: [A History of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, by G. Munro Smith, M.D., 8vo, Bristol, 1917. There is a portrait of Henry Clark - Fig. 62, facing p.306].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England