Eugenie Clark

Biography of Eugenie Clark

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.

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. 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.

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. 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. 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.

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