William Newton Clarke was born on 2 December 1841 in Cazenovia, New York, and, as the son of a Baptist minister, lived in several small towns in northern parts of his native state where strict Calvinist principles still exerted considerable influence. In 1861 he graduated with a BA degree from Madison College (now Colgate University) and in 1863 received a BD from Hamilton Theological Seminary, located on the same campus. Thereafter he served in pulpits at Keene, New Hampshire (1863–9), Newton Center, Massachusetts (1869–80), and Montréal, Canada (1880–83). Clarke severely injured an elbow and knee after slipping on ice in 1883 and this accident caused him to seek less vigorous occupations than those required in an active ministry. From 1883 to 1887 he tried academia as professor of New Testament interpretation at Toronto Baptist College, and then served once again as minister of a Baptist church. In 1890 he assumed the position in which he became nationally famous: professor of Christian theology at the now renamed Colgate Seminary in New York. Teaching for eighteen years in that capacity, and then for another four years from 1908 to 1912 as lecturer in ethics, Clarke rounded out a long career as a seminal thinker who shaped the contours of Protestant liberalism.
From The Dictionary of Modern American Philosophers in Oxford Reference.