James Clark (173?-1808)
James Clark (173?-1808) was an accomplished Edinburgh veterinarian and scientific writer who is generally considered to be the Father of Veterinary Hygiene. In writing about the veterinary art, Smithcors (1957, p. 326) notes, “… the only credible writer in English to this date had been James Clark, but that his strong forte had been veterinary hygiene more than medicine itself". This opinion is echoed by Smith (1976d, p. 115) who also considered Clark to be the Father of Veterinary Hygiene. Clark's second textbook was A Treatise on the Prevention of Diseases Incidental to Horses: From Bad Management in Regard to Stables, Food, Water, Air and Exercise in 1788. Clark's Treatise was published in four editions until 1805, though it was not widely known in England or the United States. At the time that Clark was writing his treatise, it was common practice for horses to be stabled indoors in large groups of 30-40 animals, because fresh air was considered to be pernicious. In opposition, he recommended that horses be exposed to fresh air. He analyzed other hygiene concerns in raising healthy horses and recommended providing adequate fresh water, feed, and exercise. His advice and remedies were based on his experience owning a posting establishment. According to Smith (1976d, p. 17) “…the necessity for fresh air, ventilation, good food, regular feeding, exercise, and showing has long ago been pointed out by James Clark, the veterinarian of Edinburgh”.
“… the only credible writer in English to this date had been James Clark, but that his strong forte had been veterinary hygiene more than medicine itself" Smithcors (1957, p. 326)
Little is known about the first 30 years of Clark’s life, except what he wrote himself (Smith, 1976d, p. 111). He graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1765/66 studying human and comparative anatomy. He worked as a farrier and in 1776 was appointed as Farrier to the King of Scotland. He turned down an offer to become head of the London School in 1792, because of the potential to become a veterinary professor at a school in Scotland, which was his preference. He wrote to the Odiham Agricultural Society in 1790 with a proposal for a veterinary school in Edinburgh, but Charles Vial de St. Bel (also known as Sainbel) had already proposed founding the London school. Clark continued to speak out in favour of a school in Edinburgh, but did not commit his own funds to its founding. When the Edinburgh school was established in 1821, Clark was vocal in recommending a wide range of subjects for the curriculum including anatomy and materia medica. According to Smith (1976d, p. 113) Clark defied many of the practices of his time: he did not believe in using the recipe books for cures; did not subscribe to the notion of humours dictating health; or indiscriminate use of bleeding; and drugs given to healthy animals. He stressed kindness and gentleness in dealing with his animal patients, and using medicinal drugs that were easy on those patients. In order to provide the best care, he promoted the formation of veterinary schools for training veterinarians.
Smithcors (1957, p. 273) noted that Clark was a pioneer in scientific veterinary writing and influenced writers in the later century. Clark published his first veterinary textbook Observations Upon the Shoeing of Horses with an Anatomical Description of the Bones in the Foot… in 1770: it was this work that established his reputation as a craftsmen with a scientific writing style. Expanded editions appeared in 1776, 1778 and 1782: electronic versions are available in the University of Saskatchewan collection. His second textbook A Treatise (mentioned above) had chapters that dealt with conditions common to horses such as lameness and colic and included a chapter on kindness to horses. The 1788 edition is in the Rosen collection. In 1791, his Treatise may have been the first reprint veterinary text available in the United States (Jones, 2015, p. 11). Clark’s third work published in 1806 was volume one of a textbook intended for veterinary students titled First Lines of Veterinary Physiology and Pathology. Not found in the Rosen collection.
Clark stressed kindness and gentleness in dealing with his animal patients, and using medicinal drugs that were easy on those patients.
keywords: veterinary researcher; science writer