Eugenie Clark

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Eugenie Clark in 2011.

Eugenie Clark (born May 4, 1922), sometimes referred to as The Shark Lady, is an American ichthyologist known for her research on poisonous fish of the tropical seas and on the behavior of sharks. She is a pioneer in the field of scuba-diving for research purposes.

Early life and education[edit]

Clark was born and raised in New York City by her mother, Yumico, who was of Japanese descent; her American father, Charles Clark, died when she was not yet two.[1] Yumico later married a Japanese restaurant owner in New York, Masatomo Nobu. When she was 9, Clark became fascinated by fish through visits to the New York Aquarium (then the Battery Park Aquarium) and began keeping collections of fish, amphibians, and reptiles in a small New York apartment.

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Hunter College (1942), where she majored in zoology, and her Master of Arts (1946) and doctoral degrees (1950) from New York University, where she became especially interested in triggerfish and filefish. Not long after receiving her B.A., Clark married a pilot named Jideo Umaki. Their marriage lasted seven years.[2]

During her years of graduate study, she carried out research at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, at the Marine Biological Station in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and at the Lerner Marine Laboratory in Bimini. Her most extended research trip in this period began in 1949, when she joined a program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research to undertake scientific research in Micronesia. In the course of a year or so, she carried out fish population studies on Guam as well as in the Marshall islands, the Palau islands, the northern Marianas, and the Caroline islands. Her research and travels in Micronesia formed the subject of her first book, Lady with a Spear (1953), the writing of which was supported in part by a Eugenie Saxton Memorial Fellowship and a Breadloaf Writers' Fellowship.[3] The book was a popular success, running to several editions and being translated into a number of languages.

Her doctoral studies involved her in research on the reproduction of species of platys and swordtail fish.[4] In 1950, after gaining her doctorate, she received a Fulbright scholarship to pursue ichthyological studies at the Marine Biological Station in Hurghada, on the northern Red Sea Coast of Egypt. During her sojourn in Hurghada, she married her second husband, Ilias Papakonstantinou, a Greek physician. They had two girls and two boys: Hera, Aya, Themistokles Alexander, and Nikolas Masatomo.

Academic and scientific life[edit]

Clark is the founding director (1955 to 1967) of the former Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, now known as the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida.[5] In 1968, Clark joined the faculty at the University of Maryland College Park, where she is currently a Professor Emerita of zoology. Although she has retired from teaching, she still holds the title of Senior Research Scientist. She has given lectures at over 60 colleges and universities in the United States. She has also lectured in 19 foreign countries and conducted summer science training programs at both the high school and college levels.[6]

Clark has studied the behavior, ecology and taxonomy of fishes for over 50 years, especially that of sharks. Her research has been supported over the years by such bodies as the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She has received three honorary D.Sc. degrees (from the University of Massachusetts, Long Island University, and the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada) and numerous awards from the National Geographic Society, the Explorers Club, the Underwater Society of America, the American Littoral Society, the Women Divers Hall of Fame, and other institutions. In 1976 she became a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 1994 she was awarded the Medal of Excellence by the American Society of Oceanographers. Several fish species have been named in her honor: Callogobius clarki (Goren), Sticharium clarkae George and Springer, Enneapterygius clarkae Holleman, and Atrobucca geniae Ben-Tuvia and Trewavas.

Clark has been diving with sharks for more than 40 years. During one phase of her research, she discovered that a milky liquid secreted on contact by a flatfish called a Moses sole could serve as a shark repellent. In ocean tests, shark would avoid eating Moses sole offered to them on a line.[7]

People often ask if Clark has ever been attacked by a shark, and she reports that it has happened only once but that the accident did not take place in the water. She was driving to a school to talk about sharks and had the dried, mounted jaw of a 12-foot tiger shark beside her on the front seat. Stopping abruptly at a traffic light, she stretched out her arm to keep the shark jaw from nicking the dashboard. It fell against her arm, the teeth sank in, and Clark had a half circle of tooth-marks.[8]

Clark's research has taken her around the world. She carried the flag of the Society of Women Geographers to Ethiopia and underwater off Japan and Egypt; and she carried the flag of the National Geographic Society to Egypt, Israel, Australia, Japan and Mexico.[6] Clark remains active in scuba-diving-based field research on fish and submarine dives.

Clark has shared the adventures and excitement of her scientific research through her articles in scientific journals, lectures, and television specials, and in articles in such popular magazines as National Geographic and Science Digest. In addition she has written three books: Lady with a Spear (1951), which describes her adventures in Micronesia and the Red Sea and was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; The Lady and the Sharks (1969), which describes the her starting the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory; and The Desert Beneath the Sea (1991), a children's book written with Ann McGovern which describes a scientist researching the sandy bottom of the sea.


  1. ^ Clark 1953, p. 10
  2. ^ Amy Huggins (16 August 2006). "Eugenie Clark, Ph.D". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Clark 1953, p. xii
  4. ^ "Eugenie Clark—The Shark Lady". Famous divers. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "Dr. Eugenie Clark". 
  6. ^ a b "Eugenie Clark, Ph.D". Maryland Women's Hall of Fame. Maryland State Archives. 1989. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  7. ^ R. Aidan Margin (2003). "Kinder, Gentler Shark Deterrents". Biology of Sharks and Rays. ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  8. ^ Helm, Thomas (1961). Shark, Unpredictable Killer of the Sea. Collier Books. pp. 92–93. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Balon, E.K., Michael N. Bruton, and David L.G. Noakes (eds.). 1994. An Anthology in Honour of Women Ichthyologists ET, Ro, and Genie. Kluwer Academic Publishers. (Dedicated to Clark)
  • Balon, Eugene K. 1994. Environmental Biology of Fishes, vol. 41, pp. 89–114.
  • Butts, Ellen & Joyce Schwartz. 2000. Eugenie Clark: Adventures of a Shark Scientist, Linnet Books, Connecticut. (Biography of Clark)
  • Brown, R., and J. Pettifer. 1985. The Nature-Watchers, Collins, London, pp. 17–22 and 37-45.
  • Burgess, Robert F. (1976). "Dive into the Past (Part I)". The Cave Divers. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company. pp. 110–127. 
  • Clark, Eugenie (1953). Lady with a Spear. Harper & Brothers. 
  • Clark, E. 2010. The Lady and the Sharks, Peppertree Press.
  • Ellis, R. 1976. The Shark Book, Grosset and Dunlap, New York.
  • Emberlin, D. 1977. Contributions of Women in Science, Dillon Press.
  • Facklam, Margery. 1978. Wild Animals, Gentle Women, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
  • Garber, N. 1967. Your Future In Oceanography, Rosen Press, New York.
  • Hauser, H. 1976. Women in Sports, Harvey House, New York.
  • Hauser, H. 1987. Call to Adventure, Bookmaker Guild, Longmont, CA. pp. 137–145.
  • Hauser, H. 1990. The Adventurous Aquanaut, pp. 201–216.
  • Kenny, Katherine, and Eleanor Randrup. 2010. Courageous Women of Maryland, Schiffer Publishing, pp. 27–31, 103-104.
  • LaBastille, Ann. 1980. Women and Wilderness, Sierra Club.
  • McGovern, Ann. 1978. Shark Lady, True Adventures of Eugenie Clark, Four Winds Press, New York. (Biography of Clark)
  • McGovern, Ann. 1998. Adventures of the Shark Lady: Eugenie Clark Around the World, Scholastic Book Services, New York. (Biography of Clark)
  • Polking, Kirk. 1999. Oceanographers and Explorers of the Sea, Enslow Publishers.
  • Rappaport, D. 1991. Living Dangerously, Harper & Collins, pp. 71–86.
  • Royal, Bill. 1978. The Man Who Rode Sharks, Dodd, Mead, New York. (Dedicated to Clark)
  • Taylor, V. 1979. Great Shark Stories, Harper and Row, New York.
  • Trupp, Phil. 1998. Sea of Dreamers, Fulcrum Publishing, Colorado, pp. 164–187.
  • Yount, Lisa. 1994. Contemporary Women Scientists, Facts on File, New York, pp. 54–71.

External links[edit]