Elon Clark, 1909 – 2001

From Geoffrey Mock, Executive Director and Editor in Chief of Duke Today

Elon Clark was a Duke University emeritus professor of medical art who served at Duke Hospital from its opening until his retirement. Born in New York City in 1909, Clark graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1931 and then from the Johns Hopkins School of Medical Art in 1933, where he studied under Max Brödel, a leading medical artist at the time.

Clark arrived at the Duke University in 1934 from Johns Hopkins and one year later was appointed director of the Department of Medical Art and Illustration. As director, he led a research program that concentrated on the development of improved cosmetic prostheses, particularly facial restorations. In the years that followed, Clark received further appointments at Duke and served as a consultant in medical illustration at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Durham. He took a six-month leave of absence from the university in 1949 to serve as the VA’s Art and Photographic Section chief in Washington, DC. His work with the VA involved the production of visual aids, among other prostheses. Clark was granted full professorship at Duke in 1952 and thereafter broadened his responsibilities, becoming a special assistant to the vice president in the area of archives.

As a charter member of the Association of Medical Illustrators, he became chairman of its board of governors and served on many of its committees. In addition to his medical art specialty, Clark was a gifted artist, said Mary Semans, a longtime friend and emeritus chair of the Duke Endowment. “His caring about Duke Hospital’s history and archives was one of his main concerns,” Semans said of Clark’s dedication to Duke. “Many of the archives and artifacts in the library were gathered and protected by him.” Clark published numerous scientific papers and was art editor for Urologic Surgery.

Also, among his accomplishments, he designed and produced a new identifying symbol on behalf of the university in 1966. Clark served for a time as president of the Children’s Museum in Durham (now the Museum of Life and Science), as a member of the Warren Wilson College advisory board, and as a founding member and secretary of the Duke-Semans Fine Arts Foundation.

Elon died January 19, 2001, at the Highland Farms Retirement Community in Black Mountain following a long illness. He was 91.

 

Elon H. Clark at His Desk

Used with permission from Duke University Medical Center Archives

Elon H. Clark in the Dept. of Medical Art and Illustration office at Duke University School of Medicine.

The Educational Focus Fall Issue

The Educational Focus Fall Issue

Airbrush, Used with permission from Duke University Medical Center Archives

Elon H. Clark at Work

Elon H. Clark at Work

Used with permission from Duke University Medical Center Archives

Elon H. Clark at work as a professor of medical art. Clark is adding color to an illustration of a neurological system.