Eugenie Clark, “the Shark Lady,” spent her weekends as a child at the New York Aquarium. She grew up to be an expert on sharks and other marine animals.
- Eugenie Clark was born in 1922 in New York City. Her father died when she was two and her mother took a job at a newsstand to make ends meet.
- Eugenie’s mother couldn’t afford a babysitter, but she had to work on Saturdays. She would drop Eugenie off at the aquarium while she worked.
- The young girl grew to love watching the fish. She dreamed about being a fish scientist when she grew up. She wanted to swim with the fish.
- Eugenie became an ichthyologist, which is a fish biologist.
- She dived in places no one had ever gone before, including the Red Sea, where she discovered new species of marine life.
- One animal she found there was the Moses sole, a bottom dwelling fish that releases a shark repellent when bothered. Eugenie tried to develop a shark repellent for humans from this chemical, but it didn’t work.
- Eugenie was fascinated by sharks and spent thousands of hours studying them. She realized they are not the “gangsters of the sea” we think they are.
- She taught at the University of Maryland, wrote a book, and offered many lectures, sharing what she had learned about the ocean.
- One time she rode on the back of a 50-foot whale shark. She took her last scuba dive at the age of 92, the year before she died.
- During her lifetime, Eugenie conducted 72 submersible dives. She dived many, many times in scuba gear.
- Ichthyologist: a fish scientist
- Shark repellent: capable of warding off sharks
Questions and Answers
Question: Why didn’t Eugenie’s mother put Eugenie in childcare?
Answer: In the 1920s, when Eugenie was a child, childcare centers didn’t exist. Family and friends helped care for children, but a single mother living in New York City without family nearby would have had a hard time finding help.
Visit the Smithsonian to read more about Eugenie.