James Black (pharmacologist)

Sir James Whyte Black O.M. ( Born June 14, 1924 in Uddingston, Lanarkshire, Scotland, † March 21, 2010 in London) was a British pharmacologist. He is largely responsible for the development of drugs used as beta-blockers and H2 antihistamines. He also made ​​major contributions to the understanding of drug effects at the molecular level. Together with George H. Hitchings and Gertrude B. Elion, he received the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of important biochemical principles of drug therapy.


James Black graduated in medicine at the British University of St Andrews, which he successfully completed in 1946. Despite its conclusion, he decided against a medical career. In 1947 he accepted a teaching post in Singapore for three years. In the 1950s, Black worked at the Veterinary School of the University of Glasgow, where he established a physiological department. From 1958 to 1964 he worked at ICI Pharmaceuticals. In 1964, he joined Smith Kline & French Laboratories, where he remained until 1973. In 1973 he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Pharmacology at University College London. Frustrated by the financial problems of universities, he took in 1978 at a senior position at the Wellcome Research Laboratories. After disagreements with his immediate supervisor, the Nobel laureate John Vane, he left Wellcome in 1984 and was appointed professor of analytical pharmacology at King's College London, where he remained until 1992. From 1992 to 2006 he was chancellor of Scotland's University of Dundee.

The focus of his scientific work were the biogenic amines and the receptor theory.

With the study of the biogenic amines, which include for example adrenaline counts, James Black began his time in Glasgow, as he dealt with their effects on the cardiovascular system. Inspired by the observation of Raymond Ahlquist, that adrenaline its effects via at least two different receptors mediates the α - and β -adrenoceptors, James Black set the goal to develop at that time not yet existing selective inhibitors of β -adrenoceptors. During his time at ICI Pharmaceuticals, he developed the prototype of the β -receptor blockers, beta-blockers as the achieved notoriety later, the Proethanol. In addition, he developed the first 1964 until today therapeutically used beta-blockers, the propranolol. The discovery of this drug class is considered one of the greatest achievements in the field of pharmacology of the 20th century.

At the same time he started a new project on the role of the biogenic amine histamine in gastric acid production. As a result of his work at Smith Kline & French Laboratories, he discovered the histamine H2-receptors and developed in 1972 the first therapeutically used H2 - antihistamine, cimetidine. Cimetidine became the top-selling drug of its time.

For his contribution to the discovery of important biochemical principles of drug therapy he received, along with George H. Hitchings and Gertrude B. Elion 1988 Nobel Prize for Medicine and Physiology. In 1976 he was awarded the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research, 1979 Gairdner Foundation International Award a.