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Original title:  Daniel Clark. From: Commemorative biographical record of the county of York, Ontario: containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and many of the early settled families by J.H. Beers & Co, 1907. https://archive.org/details/recordcountyyork00beeruoft/page/n4

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CLARK, DANIEL, physician, office holder, newspaper publisher, asylum superintendent, and author; b. 29 Aug. 1830 in Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland, son of Alexander Clark, a farmer, and Anne McIntosh; m. November 1859 Jennie Elizabeth Gissing of Princeton, Upper Canada, and they had five children, all of whom died in infancy; d. 4 June 1912 in Toronto.

Daniel Clark’s family emigrated to Upper Canada in 1841 via New York City and the Erie Canal and settled near Port Dover. His early education is not known, but he seems to have spent only a brief time at school in Scotland and in Canada. Later he would claim to have largely educated himself through reading and study. In April 1850 Clark and others from the Port Dover area decided to try their luck in the California gold-fields. The journey took them from New York, across the Isthmus of Panama, and then by boat to San Francisco. They panned for gold on the American River in the Sierra Nevada. His California experience exposed the youthful Clark to new people and places and, perhaps most important, provided him with sufficient money to continue his education.

After returning home in October 1851, he enrolled at the grammar school in Simcoe. Two years later he obtained a teacher’s certificate and entered Knox College, Toronto, to study for the ministry of the Presbyterian Church of Canada. But he changed his mind, possibly on the advice of his physicians following an illness, and switched the next year to the Toronto School of Medicine. For three summers he worked as a schoolteacher in Blenheim Township to finance his training. He also taught in Burford and helped erect a log schoolhouse in Princeton. Upon completion of studies in classics, mathematics, philosophy, and medicine in April 1858, Clark graduated from Victoria College in Cobourg. He then went to Scotland, where he attended the winter course of medical lectures at the University of Edinburgh and worked in the outdoor department of the Royal Infirmary. After a brief trip to the Continent, he returned to Canada in the summer of 1859 and began general practice in Princeton. Later that year he married Jennie Elizabeth Gissing, who had been born in the village to English parents.

Except for a brief hiatus in 1864, when Daniel joined the Union army as a volunteer surgeon during the American Civil War, the Clarks lived in Princeton until 1875. For 16 years he practised medicine in the Blandford-Blenheim region, and he appears to have been popular. He may have been the first practitioner in the area to administer chloroform, whose use he had learned from James Young Simpson in Edinburgh. Clark’s position as a physician and surgeon was enhanced by the local offices he held in the community as issuer of marriage licences, coroner, and commissioner for affidavits. He later referred fondly to having participated in literary events, and at one time he may have considered entering provincial politics.

A skilful practitioner, Clark eventually became more widely recognized by his colleagues. He carried out a successful hysterectomy in 1865 and two cases of blood transfusion in 1875. He was elected to the provincial medical council in 1872 and again three years later, and he would serve as its president in 1876 and 1877. Among his many interests, the study of insanity became a specialty, and this skill, together with his professional reputation and the support of the council, led to his appointment in November 1875 as medical superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane in Toronto following the retirement of Joseph Workman*.

Clark directed the administrative and medical affairs of the asylum for the next 30 years. During his tenure the number of patients grew from 956 to 1,195 and the employees from 97 to 144. He described his work in the asylum’s annual report to the provincial inspector of prisons, asylums, and public charities [see John Woodburn Langmuir], whose findings were published by the Ontario legislature in its sessional papers. Clark’s reports are individual in character and demonstrate an independence of thought not found in modern official publications. Summarizing the major developments in the asylum during the reporting period, they were a vehicle for the superintendent’s ideas on the care of the insane. He was often critical of policies that overloaded the institution with patients and reduced its amenities, for example, the admission of incurables, which diminished the role of the asylum as a curative institution. He urged the development of small cottages as an alternative to crowded ward accommodation and on occasion barely concealed his irritation at official stinginess in providing for his public charges. A stickler for legalities and for evidence, he repeatedly condemned the laxness in examining those suspected of insanity that was clearly demonstrated by ambiguous and sloppy entries on the certificates. By the 1880s he keenly felt the tension between his duties as administrator and as physician. Managing the growing institution became more onerous, and his workload was compounded by the increased paperwork and the numerous statistics demanded by government officials, about the value of which he was sceptical.

In his time at the asylum, Clark extended his research into insanity, establishing a continent-wide, if quirky, reputation. Despite his wide reading in the medical literature and his familiarity with developments in asylum administration elsewhere in Canada and particularly in the United States, he was a loner and did not make common cause with his colleagues in the Ontario asylum service. On occasion he used his pen to criticize their medical theories and institutional practices. His point of view, as Henry Mills Hurd wrote in 1917, “never coincided with that of the psychiatrist of the present day, and he belonged to a school pretty largely his own.” Clark participated in the debates of his time, notably on the relationship between insanity and masturbation, on the connection between gynaecological problems and insanity in women, and on the use of physical restraint, which he claimed to have ended at Toronto in 1883. Nevertheless he used restraint when he felt it was necessary, particularly for the administration of food and medicine. He took exception to colleagues who championed the banning of alcohol, which he preferred to opium and chloral hydrate as a sedative in some cases. He was sceptical of the merit of surgery in the treatment of the insane and dismissed the diagnostic value of taking a patient’s temperature and pulse. But he conducted experiments using amyl nitrate, becoming an advocate of its use. He remained an ardent supporter of the benefits of divine service, activity therapies, carefully planned amusements, and work, though he criticized the application of work as a general discipline and cure. Impatient with many asylum reformers, he claimed to “cleave to well-tried methods of treatment” and avoid fads.

Clark also developed a solid reputation as an expert in forensic psychiatry, testifying for the crown on some occasions and for the defence on others. Perhaps his most celebrated court appearance was for the defence in the trial of Louis Riel*, whom he declared to be insane. In 1887 he read a paper on Riel’s “psycho-medical history” before the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane. He reported this and a number of other cases in an article published in the proceedings of its successor, the American Medico-Psychological Association, for 1895. In forensic work, as in his asylum administration, Clark urged careful attention to the requirements of the law, and he never hesitated to point out errors in procedure and in evidence.

He served as examiner in chemistry for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario and in obstetrics and medical jurisprudence for the University of Toronto. Between 1887 and 1903 he was extramural professor of mental diseases at the university. He became president of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane in 1891 and was made an honorary member of its successor in 1906. He also held the positions of president of the Ontario Medical Association in 1883–84 and vice-president in the Medico-Legal Association of New York. He published extensively on issues of insanity and institutional administration, contributing articles to the Canada Lancet (Toronto), the Canadian Journal of Medical Science (Toronto), the American Journal of Insanity (Utica, N.Y), the British Medical Journal (London), and other periodicals. For the attendants at the Asylum for the Insane he compiled a handbook in 1881, and his lectures to medical students were published as Medical diseases: a synopsis . . . (Toronto and Montreal, [1895?]).

Clark’s powers of observation and his skills as an analyst also served him well in his lifelong interest in poetry, fiction, and biography. He was a contributor to Stewart’s Quarterly (Saint John), the Maritime Monthly (Saint John), and Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Review (Toronto). In partnership with his brother-in-law Frederick J. Gissing, he published a newspaper, the Weekly Review, at Princeton in 1870. His Pen photographs of celebrated men and noted places . . . (Toronto, 1873), reissued the following year as Ghosts and their relations . . . , contains an account of his trip to California and his experiences in the American Civil War. He is said to have written a novel, Josiah Garth, based on the 1837 rebellion, of which no copies are known. For the Caledonian Society of Toronto, he was one of the editors of Selections from Scottish Canadian poets . . . (Toronto, 1900).

A member of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and a president of the Caledonian and St Andrew’s societies and the Toronto branch of the Scottish Home Rule Association, Daniel Clark also contributed to many local charities, including the Salvation Army, the Hospital for Sick Children, the Home for Incurables, the homes for aged men and women, the House of Industry, and the Toronto Free Hospital for Consumptives in Weston (Toronto). Failing health prompted him to take a leave in 1903, and following his wife’s death a year later, he officially retired in 1905 at the age of 74. His last years were plagued by ill health. Chronic nephritis finally confined him to bed, and he died in June 1912. He was interred at the Forest Lawn Mausoleum in York Mills (Toronto). A memorial stone was also erected in the cemetery at Princeton.

Barbara L. Craig

Daniel Clark’s annual reports as medical superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane from 1876 to 1906 appear in Ont., Legislature, Sessional papers. Listings for his monographs and for offprints of many of his articles appear in Canadiana, 1876–1900 and CIHM, Reg.; additional articles are listed in various indexes, including Index medicus (New York, etc.), 1879–99, 1902–27.

Notable items in the journal literature include Clark’s report of the hysterectomy he performed in 1865, in a letter to the Canada Lancet (Toronto), 10 (1877–78): 71; his blood transfusions of 1875, in “Two cases of transfusion,” Canada Lancet, 7 (1874–75): 227–29; “A psycho-medical history of Louis Riel,” American Journal of Insanity (Utica, N.Y.), 44 (1887–88): 38–51; and “A few Canadian cases in criminal courts in which the plea of insanity was presented,” American Medico-Psychological Assoc., Proc. (n.p.), 2 (1895): 171–91.

AO, F 977, Forest Lawn Mausoleum, York Mills (Toronto); Princeton cemetery, Oxford County, Ont. (mfm.); RG 8-1-1, 1581/1875; RG 22-305, no.25768; RG 80-8-0-451, no.3919. NA, RG 31, C1, 1861, 1871, Blenheim Township, Ont.; 1881, 1891, Toronto (mfm. at AO). Globe, 5 June 1912: 9. William Campbell, “Scottish-Canadian poetry,” Canadian Magazine, 28 (November 1906–April 1907): 585–92. Canada Lancet, 8 (1875–76): 152, 156; 39 (1905–6): 165–66; 45 (1911–12): 856–57. Canadian biog. dict. Canadian Journal of Medical Science (Toronto), 1 (1876): 30. Canadian Journal of Medicine and Surgery (Toronto), 18 (July–December 1905): 267–68; 32 (July–December 1912): 63–64. Ethel Canfield, “Pioneer doctors of Oxford County,” Ontario Medical Assoc., Bull. (Toronto), 3 (1936): 94–95. F. A. Clarkson, “Dr. Daniel Clark, a physician of old Ontario,” Calgary Associate Clinic, Hist. Bull., 22 (1957–58): 157–70. H. H. Gunson, “Men and books: blood transfusions in 1875,” Canadian Medical Assoc., Journal (Toronto), 80 (1959): 130. H. M. Hurd et al., The institutional care of the insane in the United States and Canada, ed. H. M. Hurd (4v., Baltimore, Md, 1916–17; repr. New York, 1973), 4: 559–61. “Mechanical restraint in the care and treatment of the insane,” ed. Clark Bell, Medico-Legal Journal (New York), 10 (1892): 1–32, esp.28.

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Cite This Article

Barbara L. Craig, “CLARK, DANIEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/clark_daniel_14E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/clark_daniel_14E.html
Author of Article:   Barbara L. Craig
Title of Article:   CLARK, DANIEL
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   September 28, 2023