|Born||16 April 1728
|Died||6 December 1799
|Fields||Medicine, physics, and chemistry|
|Alma mater||University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh|
|Academic advisors||William Cullen|
|Notable students||James Edward Smith|
|Known for||Latent heat, specific heat, and the discovery of carbon dioxide|
|Influenced||James Watt, Benjamin Rush1|
Joseph Black FRSE FRCPE FPSG (16 April 1728 – 6 December 17992) was a Scottish physician and chemist, known for his discoveries of latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide. He was Professor of Anatomy and Chemistry at the University of Glasgow for 10 years from 1756, and then Professor of Medicine and Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh from 1766, teaching and lecturing there for more than 30 years.
Black was born in Bordeaux, France, where his father, who was from Belfast, Ireland, was engaged in the wine trade. His mother was from Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and her family was also in the wine business. Joseph had twelve brothers and sisters.3 He attended grammar school in Belfast from the age of 12 and entered the University of Glasgow in 1746 when he was eighteen years old, studying there for four years before spending another four at the University of Edinburgh, furthering his medical studies.
In about 1750, while still a student, Black developed the analytical balance based on a light-weight beam balanced on a wedge-shaped fulcrum. Each arm carried a pan on which the sample or standard weights was placed. It far exceeded the accuracy of any other balance of the time and became an important scientific instrument in most chemistry laboratories.4
In 1761 he deduced that the application of heat to ice at its melting point does not cause a rise in temperature of the ice/water mixture, but rather an increase in the amount of water in the mixture. Additionally, Black observed that the application of heat to boiling water does not result in a rise in temperature of a water/steam mixture, but rather an increase in the amount of steam. From these observations, he concluded that the heat applied must have combined with the ice particles and boiling water and become latent.
The theory of latent heat marks the beginning of thermodynamics.5 Black's theory of latent heat was one of his more-important scientific contributions, and one on which his scientific fame chiefly rests. He also showed that different substances have different specific heats.
The theory ultimately proved important not only in the development of abstract science but in the development of the steam engine.6 The latent heat of water is large compared with many other liquids, so giving impetus to James Watt's attempts to improve the efficiency of the steam engine invented by Thomas Newcomen. Black and Watt became friends after meeting around 1757 while both were at Glasgow. Black provided significant financing and other support for Watt's early research in steam power.
Black also explored the properties of a gas produced in various reactions. He found that limestone (calcium carbonate) could be heated or treated with acids to yield a gas he called "fixed air." He observed that the fixed air was denser than air and did not support either flame or animal life. Black also found that when bubbled through an aqueous solution of lime (calcium hydroxide), it would precipitate calcium carbonate. He used this phenomenon to illustrate that carbon dioxide is produced by animal respiration and microbial fermentation.
In 1766, treading in the footsteps of his friend and former teacher at Glasgow, Black succeeded William Cullen as Professor of medicine and chemistry at the University of Edinburgh (Cullen had moved to Edinburgh in 1755). At this point he gave up research and devoted himself exclusively to teaching. In this he was very successful with audience attendance at his lectures increasing from year to year for more than thirty years. His lectures had a powerful effect in popularising chemistry and attendance at them even came to be a fashionable amusement.
Another reason for his lack of research was his poor constitution. The least undue strain, whether physical or mental, produced spitting of blood and it was only through great care that he maintained unbroken, though feeble, health. However from 1793 it visibly declined and he gradually withdrew more and more from his teaching duties. In 1795, Charles Hope was appointed his coadjutor in his professorship and in 1797 he lectured for the last time.
Black never married. He died peacefully at his home in Edinburgh in 1799 at the age of 71 and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard.
In 2011 scientific equipment believed to belong to Black was discovered during an archaeological dig at the University of Edinburgh.7
- John Gribbin (2002) Science: A History 1543–2001.
- Guerlac, Henry (1970–80). "Black, Joseph". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 173–183. ISBN 0684101149.
- Lenard, Philipp (1950). Great Men of Science. London: G. Bell and Sons. p. 129. ISBN 0-8369-1614-X. (Translated from the second German edition)
- "Equal Arm Analytical Balances". Retrieved 2008-03-08.
- Ogg, David (1965). Europe of the Ancien Regime: 1715–1783. Harper & Row. pp. 117 and 283.
- Ogg, David (1965). Europe of the Ancien Regime: 1715–1783. Harper & Row. p. 283.
- dead link
- Ramsay, William (1918). The Life and Letters of Joseph Black. London: Constable. at archive.org
- "JOSEPH BLACK and the discovery of carbon dioxide". The Medical Journal of Australia 44 (23): 801–2. June 1957. PMID 13440275.
- "Joseph Black—rediscoverer of fixed air". JAMA 196 (4): 362–3. April 1966. doi:10.1001/jama.196.4.362. PMID 5325596.
- Breathnach CS (October 1999). "Irish links of the multinational chemist Joseph Black (1728–1799)". Journal of the Irish Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons 28 (4): 228–31. PMID 11624012.
- Breathnach CS (August 2000). "Joseph Black (1728–1799): an early adept in quantification and interpretation". Journal of Medical Biography 8 (3): 149–55. PMID 10954923.
- Buchanan WW, Brown DH (June 1980). "Joseph Black (1728–1799): Scottish physician and chemist". The Practitioner 224 (1344): 663–6. PMID 6999492.
- BUESS H (1956). "[Joseph Black (1728–1799) and the original chemical experimental research in biology and medicine]". Gesnerus (in German) 13 (3–4): 165–89. PMID 13397909.
- Donovan A (November 1978). "James Hutton, Joseph Black and the chemical theory of heat". Ambix 25 (3): 176–90. PMID 11615707.
- Eklund JB, Davis AB (October 1972). "Joseph Black matriculates: medicine and magnesia alba". Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 27 (4): 396–417. PMID 4563352.
- FOREGGER R (1957). "Joseph Black and the identification of carbon dioxide". Anesthesiology 18 (2): 257–64. doi:10.1097/00000542-195703000-00011. PMID 13411612.
- FRACKELTON WG (November 1953). "Joseph Black and some aspects of medicine in the eighteenth century". The Ulster Medical Journal 22 (2): 87–99. PMID 13217111.
- GUERLAC H (December 1957). "Joseph Black and fixed air. II". Isis 48 (154): 433–56. doi:10.1086/348610. PMID 13491209.
- Lenard, Philipp (1950). Great Men of Science. London: G. Bell and Sons. p. 129. ISBN 0-8369-1614-X.
- Perrin CE (November 1982). "A reluctant catalyst: Joseph Black and the Edinburgh reception of Lavoisier's chemistry". Ambix 29 (3): 141–76. PMID 11615908.
- Ramsay, William (1905). The Gases of the Atmosphere. London: Macmillan.
- Black's experiments on Alkaline Substances
- Joseph Black – Biographical information
- Works by or about Joseph Black in libraries (WorldCat catalog)