Sir James Black inventor of beta-blockers passes away

By Candy Lashkari

Sir James Black passed away on Monday after a long illness, he was 85. Sir James Black is credited as the inventor of the beta-blocker drugs in 1962. These are drugs which play an important role in the treatment of angina and heart attacks. They are regarded as one of the major medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century in Pharmacology. Born in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, Sir James Black studied medicine at St. Andrews University.

The beta blocker drug used to treat heart diseases such as managing irregular heartbeat, treatment of hypertension and protection of the heart after a cardiac arrest brought him great recognition and the Nobel Prize in 1988.

He also invented the first non surgical treatment for stomach ulcers and developed new drugs to treat heartburn. His career saw him in both academic and industrial roles. He spent time as an academician at St Andrews University, Glasgow University, University College and King’s College in London. The major pharmaceutical companies he worked for included ICI Pharmaceuticals, Smith, Kline and French and the Wellcome Foundation.

Sir James Black was knighted in 1981 and in 2000 he was personally awarded the Order of Merit by the Queen. This is the highest individual award bestowed by Her Majesty the Queen. Towards the end he was the Chancellor at the University of Dundee from 1992 to 2006. A research centre with his name has also been built at the University of Dundee and is now the School of Life Sciences.

Professor Pete Downes, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: ''Sir James was known to many of us here over many years and we will miss him greatly. During his time as chancellor he served the university with commitment, wisdom, grace and distinction.”

“He was a great scientist who took a keen interest in the development of our research here at Dundee, but he was also a great man to know. He inspired so many people, from students to senior academics and industrialists, right up until the last few months of his life.”

The funeral will be held in London next week.

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