Alfred Joseph Clark

Elected in 2015

Born on 19 August 1885 in Glastonbury, UK
Died on 30 July 1941 in Edinburgh, UK


  • Clark was the leading UK pharmacologist during the 1930s, whose ideas underpin much of the modern development of pharmacology
  • His enthusiasm for pharmacology came from his training in Natural Sciences and medicine, after which he took up research fellowships leading to appointment as lecturer in pharmacology at Guy’s Hospital in 1913
  • At the end of World War I, he was invited to become the first professor of pharmacology at the new University of Cape Town, and two years later to the prestigious chair of pharmacology at University College London,. before moving to the chair of pharmacology in Edinburgh in 1926
  • He was insistent that drug action needed to be understood in terms of the established scientific basis of chemistry and biology. The descriptive teaching of ‘pharmacology was due for a radical rethink, and his textbook, Applied Pharmacology, first published in 1921 became a standard teaching text through many editions
  • He believed above all in quantitative analysis of drug action, and was among the first to plot dose-response curves and interpret them in terms of the Law of Mass Action as applied to drug-receptor interactions involving agonists and antagonists. His work laid the foundations for much of the theoretical approach in use today. andHe was a passionate opponent of ‘alternative’ medicine in its various guises, arguing the case powerfully in print
  • Clark was very active in the British Pharmacological Society during its first decade. He was on the Committee from 1932 to 1935, and a Society representative on the Board of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, 1935-39.

Personal life

  • During World War I Clark was an army medical officer and he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in active service
  • He enjoyed vigorous physical activity. He rowed for his college at Cambridge and later became a keen and accomplished mountaineer
  • He had four children and his son David Hazell Clarke (1920–2010) went on to become an eminent psychiatrist

Published: 19 Nov 2015 in Pharmacology Hall of Fame