Duncan Black was born on 23 May 1908 , the son of Duncan Black of Mull, Argyll & Bute, and Margaret Brown Muir of Motherwell, North Lanarkshire. He grew up in Motherwell, North Lanarkshire, where his father worked as a boilermaker. His mother, who was a dominant influence in his life, was a milliner and ran a drapery and millinery shop in Motherwell until 1931. He was educated at Dalziel High School, Motherwell and the University of Glasgow . He graduated MA with 2nd Class Honours in Mathematics and Physics in 1929 , and MA with 1st Class Honours in Economics and Politics in 1932 .
His first appointment after graduation was as assistant lecturer at the School of Economics and Commerce, Dundee from 1932-1934 . In 1934 he moved to the University College of North Wales as lecturer in economics until 1945 , when he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Economics at Queen's University, Belfast , Ireland. Whilst at University College of North Wales he completed his thesis on income taxation, and was awarded his PhD by the University of Glasgow in 1937 . His thesis was published in 1939 under the title The Incidence of Income Taxes . In 1946 he returned to the University of Glasgow as Senior Lecturer in Social Economics. He left Glasgow in 1952 to become Professor of Economics at the University College of North Wales, where he stayed until his retirement in 1968 .
A major part of his work during this period was on Committee and Election Theory, in particular his discovery in 1951 of Lewis Carroll??s contributions to the theory of the Committee. The Theory of Committees and Elections was published in 1958 , and included an account of the work of Lewis Carroll. During his time as Professor of Economics at University College of North Wales he also served as Visiting Professor at the University of Toronto ( 1951-1952 ) and the Universities of Virginia and Rochester ( 1962-1963 ). He held a number of appointments following his retirement, including Visiting Professorships at the University of Chicago ( 1968-1969 and 1972-1973 ), and Michigan State University ( 1971-1972 and March-June 1975 ). In 1968-1969 he was a Research Fellow in the Department of Law and Economics at the University of Chicago; and in 1970-1971 he held the Senior Foreign Scientist Fellowship at the National Science Foundation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute. Black??s work was more readily recognised and accepted in the United States than it was in Britain. Duncan Black lived the later part of his life in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, where he died in 1991 .