Gies, William John, 1872-1956Alternative names
Hans Thacher Clarke studied chemistry at University College, London (1896-1905), worked for the Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester (1914-1928), and was a professor of biological chemistry at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University (1928-1956). Among other researches, he was involved in the production of penicillin in the U.S.
Hans Thacher Clarke (1887-1972) was born in Harrow, England. From 1896-1905, he attended University College London School, and went on to enter the University as a student of chemistry. There he studied under William Ramsey, J. N. Collie and Samuel Smiles. He also attended courses in physiological chemistry taught by R.H. A Plimmer and physiology with E. H. Starling, but found these studies boring at the time. After receiving his B.Sc. in 1908, Clarke continued to do research at University College under the direction of Smilesand A.W. Stewart. In 1911, he was awarded an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship which he used to spend three semesters with Emil Fischer in Berlin and one semester with A.W. Stewart at Queen's College, Belfast. On his return he was granted the D.Sc. from London University in 1913.
Clarke's father had long been associated with Eastman Kodak Company as European representative. George Eastman occasionally consulted Hans on chemical matter and, at the beginning of World War I, when the company was forced to produce photographic chemicals which they had previously imported from Germany, they turned to Hans for help. Clarke moved to Rochester, N.Y. in 1914 only to discover that he was the sole organic chemist there! The correspondence retained from these years consists largely of requests for chemicals, arrangements for visits, and reports of Clarke's consultancy work which involved scanning the chemical literature (a task which continued to occupy him for two days a week until 1969!) [Box 3, 3 files, c.60 items, 191-1963]
At the suggestion of his friend Henry D. Dakin, Clarke accepted a position offered him as Professor of Biological Chemisty at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1928. When he first took on the post he received much advice from his friend and mentor, A.W. Stewart on how to start one's own academic department (Box 7, c. 20 items, 1926-1935). While at Columbia, Clarke took a personal interest in graduate students, of whom he demanded rigorous qualifications prior to admission (a list of the PhD.s granted from 1913 to 1957, with their positions as of 1955, is in Box 2, "Biochemistry at Columbia"). As time went on, Clarke found less and less time to devote to his own research. Other responsibilities interrupted his work, including the 1953 memorial lectures for his friend Henry Dankin, and subsequent arrangements for this event at Adelphi College every year to 1965 (Box 1, Adelphia Colege, 3 files, 1957-1965).
In 1956, Clarke retired from Columbia, but continued his research and some lecturing and conducting student seminars at the Biochemical Laboratories of the Graduate School of Yale University, to which he had been invited by Joseph Fruton. This arrangement was disrupted when the Medical School needed the space Clarke was occupying in the laboratory to accommodate newly appointed members of its staff in 1964 (Box 5, Dean Vernon W. Lippard). Clarke was able to continue his research at the Children's Cancer Research Foundation Center in Boston until 1970, when ill health forced him to retire.
One of the jobs Clarke valued most was his position, in 1951-1952, as Science Attache to the American Embassy in London. His post permitted him to work closely with Sir Robert Robinson, with whom he had edited a major book on research in penicillin in 1949, after prior government service as Assistant Director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1944 placed him in charge of coordinating penicillin production in the U.S. (Box 4, Paul D. Foote, and Box 6, 1959-1960, concern a controversy on patenting of production methods in U.K. and U.S. which casts light on Clarke's role in the penicillin production effort).
Clarke's activities int he NAS, including records of his receipt of the King's medal in 1948 and vitae of nominees from 1942 to 1971 have been retained (Box 6). His activity as chairman of the Rochester section of the American Chemical Society (1921), of the New York section (1946) and of the Organic Chemisty Division (1924-25) as well as his work on the Committee on Professional Training, and the Garvin Award Committee, are well documented (Box 1, 6 files). Clarke was also the president of teh American Society of Biological Chemists in 1947, but the collection contains very little of interest in this regard (Box 2, 5 files, 50 items, c. 1942-1963).
Clarke's activity on grants allocation committees is well documented. As a member of teh Otological Society he served on a grants committee from 1956-1962 (Box 1, 9 files). As Chairman of the Merck Fellowship Board of the National Academy of Sciences in 1957, Clarke retained such interesting correspondence as a letter from Warren Weaver to A.N. Richards recommending the use of the Merck money for two or three research professorships at $15,000 p.a. rather than only for post-doctoral research, and a letter from Kenneth B. Raper at Wisconsin approving of this proposal which was passed on to the Merck Board in March 1957 (Box 5).
Clarke was in much demand for his talents as a lucid writer and was called on to serve as editor or referee throughout his career. He served on the editorial board of Organic Synthesis from 1921 to 1932 (Box 6, 3 files), of the Journal of Biological Chemistry from 1937 to 1951, and as associate editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society from 1928 to 1938 (JBC, Box 4, 8 files up to 1960, also, Box 3, Clarke's 50th Anniversary article on the Journal).
From the guide to the Hans Thacher Clarke Papers, Circa 1903-1973, (American Philosophical Society)
- Medicine--United States
- Biochemistry--United States
- Photographic chemistry