Sir James Whyte Black comes from Cowdenbeath in Fife. He studied medicine at St Andrews University and worked in Africa and other universities before returning to the University of Glasgow in 1950.
Extracts from the accompanying The Greatest Scot television programme are being added to these biographical notes as the programme is broadcast between November 9 and 13. If you live outside the UK, you will not be able to see these, but you may enjoy other videos about some of the subjects which are available via links in the text.
He is one of the world's outstanding medical scientists, renowned as the developer of beta-blockers, of treatment for ulcers, and of other important therapeutic drugs in everyday use around the world. As well as pioneering the beta-blocker, Sir James is credited with developing the first effective non-surgical treatment for stomach ulcers.
Black’s drug discoveries arose out of his systematic research on the interactions between certain cell receptors in the body and chemicals in the bloodstream that attach to them. Black wanted to find a drug that would relieve angina pectoris, the spasms of intense pain felt in the chest when the heart is not receiving enough oxygen.
In 1958 he joined Imperial Chemical Industries as a senior pharmacologist, moving to become head of biological research at Smith Kline & French Laboratories and joining the Wellcome Research Laboratories in 1978 as director of therapeutic research.
He was knighted in 1981 and became professor of analytical pharmacology at King’s College, London, in 1984. His brilliant work on drugs which have changed the lives of millions led to the award in 1988 of the Nobel Prizel for medicine, jointly with Gertrude Elion and George Hitchings.
He became a member of the Order of Merit in 2000 and in 2006 the University of Dundee built the Sir James Black Centre in his honour, a research facility for the investigation of cancer, tropical diseases, and diabetes.