Dr. Charles Kirk Clarke was born in Elora, Ontario, and educated at the University of Toronto. Interested in the psychiatric field, Clarke worked first as a clinical assistant at the Asylum for the Insane in Toronto, and then as assistant medical superintendent of the Hamilton Asylum. In 1882, he moved to Kingston and began work as assistant medical superintendent at Rockwood Asylum.
At this time, Dr. William Metcalf was the medical superintendent, but he was killed in 1885 after being stabbed by a patient suffering from paranoia. Upon his death, Dr. Clarke took up the position of medical superintendent. He had a vision of change in mind for the asylum, and he began to enact the first of his many reforms to the institution in 1888 when he founded the Rockwood Training School for Asylum Nurses, the first training program of its kind in Canada. Clarke’s belief in the “moral treatment” of mental illness led him to reform the asylum so that patients had jobs, had daily exercise, and enjoyed recreations like trips, dances, and music classes.
Due to frustration with asylum politics, Dr. Clarke left Rockwood in 1905. He went on to found the Canadian Hospital Association in 1907, work as the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto, and as Medical Director of the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene. He died in 1923, and is sometimes referred to today as the Father of Canadian Psychiatry.
To learn more about Dr. Clarke and the Rockwood Asylum, visit our blog at https://museumofhealthcare.blog/2019/07/02/moral-treatment-and-nursing-school-the-impact-of-dr-charles-kirk-clarke-at-rockwood-asylum/