Arthur C. Stark, c. 1885
|Born||Arthur Cowell Stark
27 November 1846
|Died||18 November 1899
|Alma mater||Edinburgh University|
|Spouse(s)||Rosa Catherine Cox|
Arthur Cowell Stark (27 November 1846 – 18 November 1899) was a medical doctor and naturalist. He emigrated from Torquay, England to Cape Town, South Africa in 1892. He lived in (the British colonies of) South Africa during the last 7 years of his life and died during the Siege of Ladysmith at the age of 53. He is best known for initiating an ornithological work, The Birds of South Africa.
Arthur Stark was born in Torquay as the eldest of three sons of John and Anne Stark. John was a successful ironmonger, and at times a furniture manufacturer. Arthur Stark was educated at Blundell's School and Clifton College. John Stark died in 1863 when Arthur was 16, from which time he took responsibility for the family's business. He worked as ironmonger up to the age of 26, when he married his distant cousin Rosa Cox. For a time they lived in Weston-super-Mare, before Arthur started his medical studies at Edinburgh University at age 30.
South African work
After the death of Rosa in 1892, he settled in Cape Town, while his daughters remained in England. Besides practicing as medical doctor he travelled regularly to collect animal specimens for the South African Museum and made sketches and extensive notes of his observations.
His travels up to 1898 included forays into the inland regions of the Cape, Natal, Orange Free State and Transvaal, while he consulted the major specimen collections of the time, at the South African Museum, Albany Museum in Grahamstown and the Durban Museum. Besides his personal notes, he accumulated bird eggs, bird nests and butterfly specimens, some of which were added to his personal collection.
He moved from Cape Town to Durban shortly before the outbreak of the Boer War and travelled to England in 1899 to oversee the printing of the first volume of his ornithological work, The Birds of South Africa. The completed series was meant to form part of a wider project under the editorship of William Sclater, director of the South African Museum, describing the fauna of southern Africa. Dr Stark returned to the Colony of Natal in September, 1899, where he volunteered as medical officer for the British forces when the Boer War broke out.
Death at Ladysmith
During the siege of Ladysmith he was resident in the Royal Hotel, but spent the days in shell-proof dugouts along the Klip River, or fishing, while the town was being shelled by Boer forces. Dr Stark had just returned and was standing on the hotel's veranda on the evening of 18 November 1899, when at 19:30 the Long Tom cannon stationed on Pepworth Hill fired two shots at the hotel. These were aimed at important persons who may have assembled there, probably Dr. Jameson and Colonel Rhodes who were known to be in town.
Dr Stark's legs were mangled by the second shell and he died shortly afterwards on the operating table. Dr Stark was buried in Ladysmith. H.W. Nevinson who was present records the irony of him being a strong opponent of the Chamberlain policy, and a vigorous denouncer of the war's injustice.
Completion of project
Dr Stark's field notes were afterwards recovered from Ladysmith and his Durban home. His executors entrusted these to William Sclater, director of the South African Museum, to be prepared for the second volume of the The Birds of South Africa. This volume appeared in 1902 as part of Sclater's series The Fauna of South Africa.
William Sclater named Laniarius starki for him in 1901, and Captain George Shelley followed by naming Stark's lark, Spizocorys starki, in Dr Stark's honour in 1902. William Sclater, Dr Stark's co-author of The Birds of South Africa, died in 1944 from injuries sustained from a V-1 flying bomb dropped in London.
- Auk, XVII, April 1900, pp. 189, 190. A review of volume 1 of The Birds of South Africa
- Stark, Arthur (1900), The Birds of South Africa, Vol. 1, London: R.H. Porter
- Nevinson, H.W. (1900), Ladysmith, The Diary of a Siege, Methuen & co., London, p. 107
- Auk, XIX, Jan 1902, pp. 106, 107. Completion of volume 2 of The Birds of South Africa
- Ibis, 1901, p. 153
- Birding in SA 42 (1), 1990, Whose name for the bird?, Craig, A.
- Obituary, The Times, Friday, 8 December 1899; pg. 6; Issue 36007; col D