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Black, Joseph and Pearson, George: chemistry lectures

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114 MS0157
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
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Full title: Black, Joseph and Pearson, George: chemistry lectures
Date(s): Mid 18th century-late 18th century
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Unknown


Administrative/Biographical history:

Joseph Black originally studied arts at the University of Glasgow. He switched to study chemistry under the tutelage of William Cullen, and became his assistant. In 1751 Black returned to Edinburgh to complete his medical training, and in 1754 he presented to the faculty his thesis which dealt with the subject of acidity of the stomach. In his thesis he upturned previous notions, by introducing quantitative as well as qualitative analysis into chemistry, and demonstrated the presence of something he called 'fixed air', a gas distinct from air, and which French chemists later called 'carbonic acid gas'. In 1755 Black succeeded Cullen as Professor of Medicine at the University of Glasgow, where he lectured on chemistry and medicine. During this period Black made a further contribution to the advancement of science, through the formulation of the doctrine of latent heat, calorimetry, the first accurate method of measuring heat, and the device itself, the calorimeter. This discovery was backed up by research into the laws of boiling and evaporation, and it was these studies in particular which interested Joseph Black's friend and colleague James Watt, thus laying the foundations for the practical application of steam power. In 1766 Black accepted the chair of chemistry and medicine at the University of Edinburgh. He took a keen interest in industrial developments, such as bleaching, brewing, glassworks, iron-making and furnace construction. In 1767 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, and in 1788 became the President of the College.

'Dr Pearson', is probably George Pearson (1751-1828). George Pearson was born in 1751 at Rotherham in Yorkshire. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, Leiden and London, obtaining his doctorate of medicine at Edinburgh in 1774. Pearson was admitted a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in 1784, and was elected as Physician to St George's Hospital in 1787. He lectured on chemistry, material medica and the practice of physic for a number of years. Dr Pearson died in 1828. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society and a frequent contributer to the 'Philosophical Transactions'.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers relating to Joseph Black, Professor of Chemistry and Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, and Dr George Pearson, lecturer in Chemistry at St George's Hospital, mid to late 18th century, comprising a volume of manuscript notes, by an unknown hand, taken at chemistry lectures by Black and Pearson. Including some notes on natural philosophy.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

As outlined in Scope and Content.

Conditions governing access:

By written appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No photocopying permitted.

Finding aids:

Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of the Royal College of Surgeons of England (1928) by Victor G Plarr.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The provenance of this material is not known.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.
Source: and Roll of the Royal College of Physicians of London, Volume II, 1701-1800. pp 295-296.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Sep 2008

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