Prof. Davidson Black, F.R.S


THE untimely death of Prof. Davidson Black, which occurred on March 15 at the age of forty-nine years, deprives the Cenozoie Laboratory of Peking of its honorary director, who had unique qualifications of knowledge, temperament and technical training to make him the ideal man for such a position. Not only had he in high degree the competence and personal qualities for the work, but he also had the enterprise and courage boldly to pursue the adventurous policy which has met with such conspicuous success. When he entered the University of Toronto, Prof. A. B. Macallum recommended him before entering the Faculty of Medicine to acquire some general training. Acting on this suggestion, Davidson Black studied anthropology and took an arts degree. After qualifying in medicine he became instructor in anatomy in the Medical School of the Western Reserve University at Cleveland, Ohio. At the end of 1913 he was made assistant professor of anatomy under Prof. Wingate Todd, and after his marriage he came to England and worked at comparative neurology in my department in the University of Manchester. At that time I was working on the reconstruction of the Piltdown skull and the study of the endo-cranial cast obtained from it, and for purpose of comparison had collected casts of all the known fossil human skulls. This work aroused a much greater interest in Dr. Davidson Black than the brains of the Dipnoi in which I was trying to engage his interest, and he at once made himself familiar with all of the material I had collected, and informed me that that was the kind of work to which he was determined to devote his life. He at once set to work to train himself for iuch a career, acquiring the technical experience and studying the geological literature which was essential for the field work he contemplated. His attention was arrested by the writings of a fellow Canadian, Dr. William D. Matthew, at that time a member of the staff of the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In particular he was fascinated by the work entitled “Climate and Evolution” which was published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, and this gave Davidson Black the complete conviction that China was the place where primitive man was likely to be discovered. Hence in 1916 when, after his military service, he was offered the position of professor of neurology in the Peking Union Medical College, he at once accepted the offer under the conviction that it coincided with the ideas he had formed as to his career.

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