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Samuel Clarke Edit Profile

clergyman , Philosopher

Samuel Clarke was an English philosopher and Anglican clergyman.


Clarke, Samuel (b. Norwich England, 11 October 1675; d. London England 17, May 1729) the son of Edward Clarke, an alderman of Norwich, and Hannah Clarke.


He educated at the free school of Norwich and entered Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, in 1690.


Clarke's translation (1697) continued to be used as a text-book in the university till supplanted by the treatises of Newton, which it had been designed to introduce.

Four editions were issued, the last and best being that of 1718.

In 1701 he published A Paraphrase upon the Gospel of St Matthew, which was followed, in 1702, by the Paraphrases upon the Gospels of St Mark and St Luke, and soon afterwards by a third volume upon St John.

They were subsequently printed together in two volumes and have since passed through several editions.

He intended to treat in the same manner the remaining books of the New Testament, but his design -was unfulfilled.

Meanwhile he had been presented by Bishop Moore to the rectory of Drayton, near Norwich.

These lectures, first printed separately, were afterwards published together under the title of A Discourse concerning the Being and Attributes of God, the Obligations of Natural Religion, and the Truth and Certainty of the Christian Revelation, in opposition to Hobbes, Spinoza, the author of the Oracles of Reason, and other Deniers of Natural and Revealed Religion. In 1706 he wrote a refutation of Dr Henry Dodwell's views on the immortality of the soul, and this drew him into controversy with Anthony Collins.

Soon afterwards Queen Anne appointed him one of her chaplains in ordinary, and in 1709 presented him to the rectory of St James's, Westminster.

During the same year, at the request of the author, he revised Whiston's English translation of the Apostolical Constitutions. In 1712 he published a carefully punctuated and annotated edition (folio 1712, octavo 1720) of Caesar's Commentaries, with elegant engravings, dedicated to the duke of Marlborough.

During the same year he published his celebrated treatise on The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity. It is divided into three parts.

The ministers were right in their conjectures; and the work not only provoked a great number of replies, but occasioned a formal complaint from the Lower House of Convocation.

A collection of the papers which passed between them was published in 1717.

In 1719 he was presented by Nicholas ist Baron Lechmere, to the mastership of Wigston's hospital in Leicester.

In 1724 he published seventeen sermons, eleven of which had not before been printed.

In 1727, on the death of Sir Isaac Newton, he was offered by the court the place of master of the mint, worth on an average from £1200 to £1500 a year.

This secular preferment, however, he absolutely refused.

In 1728 was published " A Letter from Dr Clarke to Benjamin Hoadly, F. R. S. , occasioned by the controversy relating to the Proportion of Velocity and Force in Bodies in Motion, " printed in the Philosophical Transactions.

In 1729 he published the first twelve books of Homer's Iliad.

This edition, dedicated to William Augustus, duke of Cumberland, was highly praised by Bishop Hoadly.

On Sunday 11 May 1729, when going out to preach before the judges at Serjeants' Inn, Clarke had a sudden illness. It caused his death on the Saturday following, in London.



Had he been a man of lesser repute, and of worse connections, his work might have been ignored as a ridiculous attempt to cast doubt on both natural and revealed religion.

His stature forced those who disagreed with him to reply, and “Mr. Clarke was thought the most proper person for the work. ”

Clarke denied that the soul could be mortal, since it could not possibly be material.

At the end of his treatise he cautioned Dodwell to reconsider the implication of his ideas, for Dodwell had furnished “A Weapon for the hands of skeptical men…to make profane men rejoice. ”


His major interests were physics and theology, and he mastered the contents of Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia while at Gonville and Caius.


Katherine and Clarke had seven children, of whom five survived him. The eldest son Samuel Clarke entered the Inner Temple in 1716 and Jesus College, Cambridge in 1717. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1728, and died in 1767.


Clarke married Katherine, daughter of the Rev. Mr. Lockwood of Little Massingham, Norfolk.