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John Faithfull Clark (1911–1967)

by W. M. O'Neil

This article was published:

John Faithfull Clark (1911-1967), professor of applied psychology, was born on 20 April 1911 at Paddington, Sydney, son of native-born parents John Clark, stonemason, and his wife Mary Goodier, née Scholes. Educated at Sydney Boys' High School and the University of Sydney (B.Sc., 1931; Dip.Ed., 1932; B.A., 1940; M.A., 1948), from 1932 John taught at city and country high schools. On 28 December 1937 he married a fellow teacher Jean Olive Hutton at St Stephen's Presbyterian Church, Sydney. A dedicated lifesaver, he participated in the rescue operation on Black Sunday (6 February 1938) when some two hundred people were swept out in rough surf at Bondi and five were drowned.

After completing an arts degree and winning the university medal in psychology, in May 1940 Clark was appointed psychologist-in-charge of the vocational guidance section, Department of Labour and Industry. On 8 June 1942 he enlisted in the Royal Australian Air Force; he was then 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall, weighed 10 st. 10 lb. (68 kg), and had blue eyes and light-brown hair. Commissioned on 11 July, he was promoted acting flight lieutenant in January 1943. On 2 December, as senior research officer, he took charge of psychological testing in the directorate of training until he was demobilized on 20 June 1946 with the rank of acting wing commander.

Appointed senior guidance officer in the technical education branch of the Department of Public Instruction in June 1945, Clark served as senior selection officer for the Commonwealth Reconstruction Scheme in 1946-47. With Squadron Leader T. G. Jones, he published Vocational Guidance in the Royal Australian Air Force, 1942-1946 (Melbourne, 1947). In 1949 he became chief educational research officer in the Department of Technical Education. Having refined his methods of analysis, he studied at the Institute of Education, University of London (Ph.D., 1951), as a Carnegie fellow (1949-50) and Leon scholar (1950-51), and wrote his thesis on vocational aspirations.

In 1953 Clark was appointed foundation professor of applied psychology at the New South Wales University of Technology (University of New South Wales). He initially accepted the customary emphasis on general psychology in the undergraduate programme, but later promoted applied psychology—industrial and clinical—and moved increasingly towards providing professional training in that area. In recruiting his staff, he looked to expertise in this field, as well as to demonstrated teaching skills. The research he engaged in and encouraged in his large department was practical and fundamental; he was not much concerned with broad theoretical issues. In 1956-57 he chaired the Australian branch of the British Psychological Society. A fellow of the Australian Institute of Industrial Management, he brought psychology to industry and the community through extramural talks and short courses, especially on management problems.

In 1961 Clark was appointed dean of the faculty of science: he held this office while continuing as head of the school of applied psychology. As pro vice-chancellor from 1963, he liaised with the university colleges at Newcastle and Wollongong; his duties included responsibility for student facilities and overseeing student progress, and he endeavoured to blend the technological and humanistic aims of the university. He was an effective administrator, wise, patient and informed, who worked harmoniously with colleagues and subordinates. Clark died suddenly of a dissecting aortic aneurysm on 4 June 1967 at St Leonards, Sydney, and was cremated; his wife, son and daughter survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • D. P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry (Canb, 1958)
  • University of Sydney Union, Union Recorder, 20 July 1967
  • Australian Psychologist, 2, no 2, Nov 1967
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 10 Nov 1953, 5, 7 June 1967
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 10 Jan 1960.

Citation details

W. M. O'Neil, 'Clark, John Faithfull (1911–1967)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 21 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

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