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Clarke, Samuel

1. Dates
Born: Norwich, 11 Oct. 1675
Died: London, 17 May 1729
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 54
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant, Magistrate
Edward Clarke was a cloth manufacturer, who was much respected in the city of Norwish and became an Alderman. He was also chosen to represent the city in Parliament.
Since he was an M.P., he must have been prosperous at the least.
3. Nationality
Birth: England
Career: England
Death: England
4. Education
Schooling: Cambridge, M.A., D.D.
Norwich Free School.
Cambridge, 1690-5; Gonville and Caius College; B.A., 1695; M.A., 1698.
D.D., 1709.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Anglican, Heterodox
Clarke's Arianism became evident in his Scripture-Doctrine of the Trinity, 1712. He was nearly defrocked by Convocation until he recanted and agreed to remain silent on the question. The book aroused a controversy that lasted until his death. He had a handful of followers who defended him, and in fact, despite his promise, he entered the controversy anonymously a couple of times. No one doubts that he continued to hold Arian views.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural Philosophy
Subordinate: Physics
Clarke drew heavily on Newtonian ideas, and on Leibnizian ones as well, in theological controversies. The famous exchange with Leibniz stemmed from Leibniz's criticism of Clarke's views.
Late in life he entered into the vis viva controversy and published a paper on it in the Philosophical Transactions in 1728.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
Secondary: Academia, Patronage
Fellow of Gonville and Caius, 1696-1700.
Bishop Moore's chaplain, 1698-1710.
Rector of Drayton, 1701.
Boyle Lecturer, 1704 and 05; these lectures established Clarke's reputation.
Rector of St. Benet's in London, 1706.
Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Queen Anne from about 1706.
Rector of St. James's, 1709. St. James's was in the most fashionable area of London, and the income from the position was about L600 per year.
The Master of Wigston Hospital (in Leicestershire), 1718 income about L200 per year. Although this position demanded a cleric, I list it under patronage.
8. Patronage
Types: Eccesiastic Official, Court Official, Scientist, Aristrocrat
He was named chaplain of Bishop Moore in 1698, and Moore made him the rector of Drayton in 1701. Through Moore, who introduced him to the court, he was known by Queen Anne who later became his patron.
Clarke's entire career was dependent on this relationship. Bp. Moore recognized his ability early, and Clarke's career flowed directly out of Moore's patronage. Anne's patronage undoubtedly stemmed directly from Clarke's support by the Whig establishment, but this included Moore.
Queen Anne granted him the rectorship of St. Benet's in 1706 and the rectorship of St. James in 1709, but Moore's influence stood behind both appointments. Early in his career Clarke dedicated his edition of Rohault's Physics to Moore and later his Paraphrases of three of the Gospels.
He dedicated his Paraphrase of St. Mathew's Gospel to Archbishop Tenison. Tenison was instrumental in Clarke's appointment as Boyle lecturer, and to Tenison (and the other three Boyle trustees) he dedicated the published versions.
As is well known, he translated Newton's Opticks into Latin and received L500--L100 for each of Clarke's children. Later he stood in Newton's stead in the famous exchange with Leibniz.
Clarke dedicated a translation of Caesar's Commentaries, 1712, to the Duke of Marlborough. Note that to this point, the year of Scirpture-Doctrine, Clarke's career was almost vertically in the ascendent, and he was furthering it by dedicating to all the powerful.
According to Whiston, Clarke's intention, when he published Scripture-Doctrine, which he realized was apt to stir up a furor, was to resign his positions if it led to his official condemnation. He was in fact dismissed as a chaplain to the Queen. When he was charged before Convocation, however, and began to realize what he was about to lose, he weakly recanted and agreed to be silent on the Trinity. If he held on to his wealthy positions, this was effectively the end of his preferment.
In 1718 Lord Lechmere presented him with the Mastership of Wigston's Hospital in Leicester, a position that did not require a new subscription to the 39 Articles.
Princess Caroline became Clarke's patron after the accession of George I. Voltaire asserted that Caroline wanted to appoint him Archbishop of Canterbury, but his heterodox reputation blocked it. After Clarke's death she bestowed a pension on his widow.
Ferguson asserts that Clarke was offered the Mastership of the Mint when Newton died; I am highly dubious about this.
By royal command he translated the Iliad for the Prince, the Duke of Cumberland, and dedicated the publication of the first twelve books, 1729, (all that appeared during his lifetime) to the Prince.
Because of his prominence, Clarke became a minor patron; his influence was sufficient to have his supporter/disciple, John Jackson (like him a clergyman in the Church of England) installed as Confrater of Wigston Hospital. Also he appointed A.A. Syckes as Assistant Preacher at St. James and to other positions. He was able to aid the career of Robert Clayton by introducing him to the court.
(One source on patronage: Clarke, Works, 1, preface. Lilly Library)
9. Technological Involvement
Types: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Informal Connections: Friendship with Newton. Earlier the friendships evdent in the edition of Rouhault.
  1. Benjamin Hoadly, "Some Account of the Life, Writings, and Character of Dr. Samuel Clarke," in Clarke, Works, 1, (London, 1738).
  2. Lilly Library A.G. Alexander, Clarke and Leibniz Correspondence, (Manchester, 1956). James P. Ferguson, An Eighteenth Century Heretic, Dr. Samuel Clarke, (Kineton, 1976). BX5199 C52F47 Dictionary of National Biography (repr., London: Oxford University Press, 1949-1950), 4, 443-6.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. J. Rodney, "Samuel Clarke and the Acceptance of Newtonian Thought," Research Studies, 36 (1968), 351-60.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
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