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You are here: Home » Resources » MVGW Home » Biographies » Wallace Clarke, B. A., M. A., M. D., C. M.

History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Wallace Clarke, B. A., M. A., M. D., C. M.

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[This information is from Vol. III, pp. 685-686 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Dr. Wallace Clarke, who has been one of the distinguished representatives of the medical profession in Utica for nearly half a century, was born in Montreal, Canada, May 30, 1849. His father, William Roxborough Clarke of Montreal, was the son of Thomas and Janet (Roxborough) Clarke of Kilmarnock, Scotland, and emigrated to Canada in 1820, to go into business with his uncle, William Roxborough of Quebec, one of the first importers and wholesale merchants of the Dominion.

Following his graduation from the Montreal high school, Wallace Clarke entered McGill University in Montreal at the age of sixteen years and during his six years in that institution of learning he achieved a record in scholarship never before attained by any student of McGill. Not only did he complete the eight years' work required for the B. A. and M. D. degrees in six years but while doing the double work he received the second year's honor prize in English and the Shakespeare gold medal, the most sought-after prize in the college, graduated with high honors from the Medical School and was captain of the university cricket team. He received his B. A. degree in 1869, the M. D., C. M., and L. R. C. P. S. in 1871 and the M. A. in 1873. During the latter part of his medical course he was personal assistant to the eminent Canadian surgeon, Dr William Hingston, upon whom was later bestowed a knighthood by the queen of England.

After graduation from the Medical School Dr. Clarke began the practice of medicine in Marquette, Michigan, where he rapidly built up a flourishing patronage. While in Marquette he met Miss Sarah Elizabeth Scoville, the stepdaughter of Thomas H. Wood of Utica and granddaughter of Stalham Williams, one of the pioneers of Utica, and was married to her in this city on November 30, 1875. It was in the same year that Dr. Clarke settled in Utica, where he soon became one of its leading physicians. He was one of the attending physicians to Faxton and St. Luke's Hospitals and the Utica Orphan Asylum and, after an extended period of postgraduate work in Europe, in 1889, in which he made a special study of the diseases of the eye, ear, throat and nose, he was appointed attending ophthalmologist to the Utica State Hospital. Dr. Clarke was for several years the only attending physician to the Utica Dispensary; was the founder of the Utica Medical Library Association, and was actively associated with Dr. Hutchinson in the development of St. Elizabeth's Hospital. In 1892 he was appointed chairman of the civil service commission, and in 1897 was made health officer of Utica, which position he held until 1900. In 1903, upon the appearance of smallpox in the city, Dr. Clarke consented again to assume the duties of health officer and served in that capacity until 1907. Immediately after the assumption of his office, in 1897, Dr. Clarke inaugurated a campaign of hygienic reform which not only resulted in making Utica one of the cleanest and healthiest cities in the country, but attracted to it the attention of sanitarians of the whole United States. While health officer Dr. Clarke inaugurated the first campaign against the house fly as a cause of disease in the world, and was also the first to use formaldehyde as a disinfectant municipally. In 1902 Dr. Clarke was appointed smallpox expert of the New York state board of health, thus becoming one of the two physicians in the state to constitute the final court of appeal in all questions of the diagnosis, care and quarantining of cases of smallpox. It was largely due to his labors during the epidemic of smallpox in 1903, when every city in the state was in the grip of the disease, that Utica and the surrounding towns escaped with so few cases. Dr. Clarke was at one time vice president of the Oneida County Medical Society, and is a member of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association.

Deeply interested in outdoor sports, Dr. Clarke organized the very successful Utica Toboggan Club, of which he was elected president; the Utica Cricket Club, of which he was for many years captain; and the Utica Lacrosse Club. He was a charter member of the Fort Schuyler Club.

To Dr. Wallace and Sarah Elizabeth (Scoville) Clarke were born two sons: Wallace Roxborough, who died at the age of eight years; and Dr. Thomas Wood Clarke of Utica, of whom extended mention is made on another page of this work.

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