Joseph Black lectures in Chemistry

Scope and Content

During Black's lifetime many manuscript copies of his lectures were made by students and others. Two versions of these are now held in the Library at St Andrews University.

The first, in two volumes [ca. 1775], was copied by several unidentified scribes and contains Lectures 1-21 and 22-44 in volumes I and II. The other, originally in six volumes, was copied by Henry Beaufoy (Beaufy), (d.1795), Whig politician, MP for Minehead, 1780 and Great Yarmouth 1784 and 1790. Four of these, namely volumes I, II, IV, VI are now in the Library, and contain Lectures 1-22, 23-42, 61-78 and 91-106 respectively.

Administrative / Biographical History

Joseph Black (1728-1799) was born in Bordeaux, attended school in Belfast, and attended the University of Glasgow where he matriculated in 1746. In Glasgow, he was taught and greatly influenced by Professor William Cullen (1710-1790) who was lecturer in chemistry (1747-55) and professor of medicine (1751-55). Black became Cullen's assistant in the laboratory, and then went on to the University of Edinburgh (ca. 1752) to complete his medical education (MD 1754). His famous researches on "fixed air' (carbon dioxide) were carried out during this period in Edinburgh.

In 1756, he was appointed to the chair of anatomy and botany in the University of Glasgow, but he transferred to the chair of medicine and lectured in medicine for the next ten years. Not only did he carry out his important research into physical properties (latent heat and specific heat) during this period in Glasgow (1756-66), he also maintained a large medical practice, as well as discharging the duties of professorship and lectureship.

After his move to Edinburgh to the post of professor of medicine and chemistry in 1766, he devoted himself almost exclusively to teaching, and restricted his medical practice to a narrow circle of friends. He held this appointment until his death in 1799, although, because of failing health, he delivered his last course of lectures in the winter of 1796-97.

Black was a pioneer in the chemistry of gases and originated the theory of specific and latent heat. His work was also one of the principal foundations of the quantitative chemistry which was built up over the next half century. He published very little, his great discoveries being communicated in his lectures.

Black's lectures, although universally acclaimed, were not published until about four years after his death, in 1803. They were edited by John Robison, professor of natural history in the University of Edinburgh, and published under the title Lectures on the elements of Chemistry delivered in the University of Edinburgh, (Edinburgh, 1803). The preface to the first volume is largely a summary of Black's life and work.

Other sources: John Read, "Joseph Black M.D., the teacher and the man', 1947, in Andrew Kent (ed), An eighteenth century lectureship in chemistry - essays and bicentenary addresses relating to the chemistry department of Glasgow University, (Glasgow, 1950); Arthur L Donovan, Philosophical chemistry and the Scottish enlightenment: the doctrines and discoveries of William Cullen and Joseph Black, (Edinburgh, 1975).

Arrangement

ms38181 Manuscript copy of lectures in "Chemistry - Containing Whatever is Essential to be Known in the Art thereof' given by Joseph Black, professor of medicine and chemistry, Edinburgh University, 1766-99. Volume I, lectures 1 to 21, scribes unknown. Subjects covered include: history of chemistry; definition of chemistry; general effects of heat; thermometers; transfer of heat; volatility; sulphur; phlogiston.

ms38182 Manuscript copy of lectures in "Chemistry - Containing Whatever is Essential to be Known in the Art thereof' given by Joseph Black, professor of medicine and chemistry, Edinburgh University, 1766-99. Volume II, lectures 22 to 44, scribes unknown. Subjects covered include: general effects of mixture; saturation; solution; fusion; evaporation; chemical apparatus; precipitation; distillation; cementation; means of producing heat; fermentation or putrefaction; fuels; furnaces; particular doctrines of chemistry; elements; alkaline salts; acids; compound salts with table.

ms38183 Manuscript copy of lectures in chemistry given by Joseph Black, professor of medicine and chemistry, Edinburgh University, 1766-99, made by Henry Beaufoy (Beaufy), M.P. for Great Yarmouth. Volume I. The first of four volumes (Vols I, II, IV, VI), this volume contains lecture 1 (dated 29 October, 1771) to lecture 22. Verso of front free end paper has inscription: "This is a Copy of the Lectures of the Celebrated Chemical Lecturer at Edinboro Dr Black. Copies of his Lectures were obtained by paying for permission to copy them. This copy was made by Henry Beaufy Esq. M.P. for Great Yarmouth, Norfolk & Secretary to the Board of Control, during the time he was a student at the above University, after quitting the Dissenting Academy at Warrington in Lancashire, where he studied under Dr Priestley, Dr Aikin etc.'. p.107 has printed plate comparing various thermometric scales. [From "An essay towards comparing different thermometers with one another' by George Martine. See George Martine MD, Essays and observations on the construction and graduation of thermometers and the heating and cooling of bodies, (Edinburgh, 3rd ed, 1780), p.37]. p.iv has a large folding plate of a Fahrenheit thermometric scale with various freezing, melting, boiling, temperatures, numbered from 1100 above zero to 450 below. Subjects covered include: history of chemistry; definition of chemistry; general effects of heat; thermometers; transfer of heat; theory of latent heat; fluidity; volatility; principle of phlogiston or inflammability.

ms38184 Manuscript copy of lectures in chemistry given by Joseph Black, professor of medicine and chemistry, Edinburgh University, 1766-99, made by Henry Beaufoy (Beaufy), MP for Great Yarmouth. Volume II. The second of four volumes (Vols I, II, IV, VI) this volume contains lectures 23 to 42. Subjects covered include: general effects of mixture; chemical apparatus; means of producing heat - animal heat, friction, electricity, mixture of bodies, fermentation, rays of the sun, fuel; furnaces; particular doctrines of chemistry; elements; alkaline salts; acids; compound salts with table.

ms38185 Manuscript copy of lectures in chemistry given by Joseph Black, professor of medicine and chemistry, Edinburgh University, 1766-99, made by Henry Beaufoy (Beaufy), M.P. for Great Yarmouth. Volume IV. The third of four volumes (Vols I, II, IV, VI), this contains lectures 61 to 78. (Heading for lecture 75 missing.) Subjects covered include: calcareous and absorbent earths; caustic alkali; alkaline salts; alkaline and absorbent earths; gypseous earths; clays and alum; flinty and stony earths; talcs, chalks; inflammables; phosphorus; sulphur; charcoal; alcohol or ardent spirits; ether; alcohol and nitrous acid.

ms38186 Manuscript copy of lectures in chemistry given by Joseph Black, professor of medicine and chemistry, Edinburgh University, 1766-99, made by Henry Beaufoy (Beaufy), M.P. for Great Yarmouth. Volume VI. Fourth of four volumes (Vols I, II, IV, VI), this contains lectures 91 to 106. Subjects covered include: metals; mercury; semi-metals; antimony; bismuth; zinc; lead (and its effects on the body); tin.

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