Prof. Joseph Black

1728 - 1799

Chemist. Born in Bordeaux (France), the son of a wine merchant, Black was educated in Belfast and at the University of Glasgow, in the latter under the tutelage of William Cullen (1710-90). He was appointed Professor of Anatomy and Chemistry in Glasgow (1756) and then Professor of Medicine and Chemistry in the University of Edinburgh (1766), succeeding Cullen who had moved to Edinburgh in 1755. He characterised carbonate compounds and, in 1754, he determined that when they were heated they gave off the gas Carbon Dioxide (or CO2), which he recognised for the first time and described as "Fixed Air". He further realised this was a constituent of the atmosphere. The following year he was the first to recognise magnesium was an element. In 1761, he developed the concept of "Latent Heat" and later "Specific Heat". Black is regarded as the Father of Quantitative Chemistry. He was also a founding fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783.

Black had residences at Sylvan House on the Meadows and in Nicholson Street. He died in Edinburgh, and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

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