ANW logo

Archives Network Wales

Search the collections:        Search help | Advanced search   | Browse by repository

Browse the indices: Combined(searchable) Personal names Corporate names Places Subjects



[New to Archives?]

[Family history]

[Admin menu]

List of repositories  |  List of collections at Aberystwyth University  |  Repository home page  |  Contact details

Aberystwyth University
Joseph Black Archive

Reference code(s): GB 0982 JB

Held at: Aberystwyth University

Title: Joseph Black Archive

Short Title: Joseph Black Archive

Creation date(s): [ca. 1771]

Level of description: fonds

Extent: 0.014 cubic metres

Name of creator(s): Unknown


Administrative/Biographical history: Joseph Black was born in Bordeaux on April 16th 1728, the son of Belfast born wine merchant John Black and his Scottish wife. At twelve years old, Black was sent to grammar school in Belfast, from where he proceeded in 1746 to the University of Glasgow. He chose to study medicine, but became interested in chemistry under the tutorship of William Cullen. Cullen recognised Black's potential, and made him his assistant.
In 1751, Black left Glasgow for the University of Edinburgh in order to complete his medical studies. Whilst there, he undertook research into the affect of heat on magnesium carbonate, showing the existence of carbon dioxide as a gas separate from air. His resulting thesis, entitled Experiments upon Magnesia alba, Quicklime, and some other Alkaline Substances , was published in 1756.
It was in 1756 that Black was appointed as Cullen's successor to the chair of chemistry and anatomy at Glasgow University. He later exchanged this chair for that of medicine, a post for which he felt more qualified. It was at this point that he began his investigations into latent heat, announcing his theory in 1761. This work, along with his research on specific heats, formed the basis for modern thermal science.
1766 saw Black return to Edinburgh, becoming Professor of Medicine and Chemistry at the city's University. He cut back his work as a medical practitioner, restricting himself to treating a close circle of family and friends, and also abandoned his research work, in order to concentrate solely on teaching. His lectures drew increasingly large audiences, and he achieved great success as a tutor.
Black had always suffered due to poor health, and the 1790s saw a rapid deterioration in his well-being. In 1795 Charles Hope was appointed as his co-professor, so as to lighten the burden of his work. In 1797 he delivered his final lecture, and he died on November 10th 1799.


Scope and content/abstract: The archive contains five volumes of manuscript copies of chemistry lectures delivered by Joseph Black whilst Professor of Medicine and Chemistry at Edinburgh University. The first volume is inscribed 'Black's Chemistry vol. 5th', but no trace can be found of the other volumes in the series. The remaining volumes are numbered 1, 3, 4 and 5, and comprise an incomplete five volume set of chemistry lectures, with annotations, in various hands. The first volume in the set bears the inscription 'J Lyon'.


Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access: The papers may be consulted through application to Information Services, Hugh Owen Library, University of Wales Aberystwyth, Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3DZ, Tel: 01970 622399, Fax: 01970 622404, E-mail:

Conditions governing reproduction: Usual copyright regulations apply

Finding aids: Basic list available at Hugh Owen Library, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Language codes: eng


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition: The lone volume was donated to the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, by George E J Powell. The provenance of the series of volumes is uncertain.


Related material: Joseph Black's lecture notes are also held by The Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine; The British Library; University College London; The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh; The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; Liverpool University, Department of Special Collections and Archives; University of Wisconsin at Madison Library; University of Toronto Library; The Science Museum Library; The National Library of Scotland, and Manchester University's John Rylands Library.
Black's correpondence and papers are to be found at Edinburgh University Library; Birmingham City Archives; Huntington Library, and with The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Some groups of papers and letters are also held privately.


Note: Description compiled by Rhian Phillips, Archive Hub project archivist, with reference to Dictionary of National Biography , vol. II, (London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1908), pp.571-74.

Rules or conventions: Created following ISAD(G) and Archives Hub Data Creation Guidelines

Date(s) of descriptions: Prior to 16-11-2004


Personal names
Black , Joseph , 1728-1799

Corporate names
University of Edinburgh


List of repositories  |  List of collections at Aberystwyth University  |  Repository home page  |  Contact details