Joseph Black 1728-1799
Joseph Black was born in Bordeaux, France in 1728. His father was a wine merchant from Belfast and his mother was Scottish. At the age of 18 he attended Medical school at Glasgow university. He furthered his medical studies at Edinburgh. This is where his most famous experiments took place. His experiments helped to pave a way for future scientists.
During the 1752 to 1753 Joseph Black occupied himself with researching for a solvent for a urinary calculi. He discovered by accident the difference between limestone and quicklime and this was produced by the expulsion of the "fixed air". (discovered by Von Helmont 1599-1644 in 1648 although he called it "Gas Silvestre") He had discovered how to isolate carbon dioxide and he embodied this in his thesis in 1754 for his degree entitled De Humore Acedo a Cibis Orto et Magnesia Alba.
Black, in 1762, discovered the principle of latent heat, which was describes in a paper to the Philosophical Club of Glasgow, but was not published till it appeared in Black's " Lectures," edited by Kobison, in 1803.
The practical importance of Black's discovery was at once recognised by James Watt, through whose genius the use of latent heat was transformed into useful mechanical work in the invention of the steam engine. Black had associations with Watt and Beddoes in the reseach that was done at the Beddoes Institute.
In 1782 the first real step to the science of anaesthesia was taken when Joseph Black became the first person to isolate carbon dioxide into its pure state and at the time he called it fixed air, as it could combine with a solid, this was a small step in terms of anaesthetic properties but a giant step in the breakthrough for science as it led to modern chemistry and eventually atomic research.
Black during his lifetime suffered from breathing problems, and rheumatic problems in later life. He was known to be a
vegetarian in latter life and also suffered from Vit D deficiency. He improved when he moved out of the city into the country
He died, in Edinburgh, on 6 December 1799, and is buried in
Grey friars churchyard.145