David Stafford-Clark was born on 17 March 1916 in Kent. Following the completion of his medical studies at London University in 1939 he served as a member of the house staff at the university until the beginning of the Second World War during which he served in the RAF and published two volumes of war poetry. His time in charge of the station hospital at Bomber Command in Cambridgeshire proved influential to his later life as it enabled him to gain enough experience of psychiatry that he chose to specialise in the discipline at the close of the war. He married Dorothy Stewart in 1941.
He trained for three years under Professor Sir Aubrey Lewis at the Institute of Psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital in London. Following this he held a one-year Nuffield fellowship at Harvard. In 1950 he took up a post at Guy’s. In 1954 he was appointed head of the department of psychological medicine and director of the York Clinic posts he held until his retirement.
His public career was widely varied. He appeared on the Lifeline series of television programmes during the 1960s and gave expert testimony in several high-profile court cases including the case surrounding D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover. In addition to ‘Myth, Magic and Denial’ the 1977–78 Gifford lectures at the University of St Andrews he delivered the 1960 Robert Waley Cohen lectures entitled ‘Psychology of Prejudice: Christians and Jews’.
Stafford-Clark's wartime service included participation in the Porton Down experiments into the effects of poison gas which left him with permanent lung damage. Due to health difficulties he retired early in 1973 and died on 9 September 1999.
His publications include: Psychiatry Today (1951); Case Histories in Psychosomatic Medicine (1952); Schizophrenia: Somatic Aspects (1957); Psychiatry for Students (1964); The Pathology of Sexual Deviation (1964); What Freud Really Said (1965).