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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > Joseph Black Quotes

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Joseph Black
(16 Apr 1728 - 6 Dec 1799)

Scottish chemist and physicist who investigated and made quantitative experiments with carbon dioxide, known as "fixed air." He also identified the latent ("hidden") heat involved with a substance's change of state, realized the difference between heat and temperature, and measured specific heats.

Science Quotes by Joseph Black (9 quotes)

Joseph Black Portrait
Joseph Black and items of apparatus.
Oil portrait (c.1770) by David Martin. (source)
As the ostensible effect of the heat … consists not in warming the surrounding bodies but in rendering the ice fluid, so, in the case of boiling, the heat absorbed does not warm surrounding bodies but converts the water into vapor. In both cases, considered as the cause of warmth, we do not perceive its presence: it is concealed, or latent, and I gave it the name of “latent heat.”
— Joseph Black
Science quotes on:  |  Boil (15)  |  Concealed (3)  |  Fluid (19)  |  Heat (100)  |  Ice (33)  |  Latent Heat (6)  |  Vapor (6)  |  Water (292)

Chemistry is the science or study of those effects and qualities of matter which are discovered by mixing bodies variously together, or applying them to one another with a view to mixture, and by exposing them to different degrees of heat, alone, or in mixture with one another, in order to enlarge our knowledge of nature, and to promote the useful arts.
— Joseph Black
From the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 11.
Science quotes on:  |  Alone (101)  |  Body (243)  |  Chemistry (250)  |  Degree (81)  |  Different (178)  |  Discover (196)  |  Effect (165)  |  Expose (16)  |  Heat (100)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Matter (340)  |  Mixture (26)  |  Nature (1211)  |  Quality (93)  |  Science (2043)  |  Study (461)

Chemistry is the study of the effects of heat and mixture, with a view of discovering their general and subordinate laws, and of improving the useful arts.
— Joseph Black
This is an editor’s shorter restatement of the definition given by Black in the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 11, footnote. For the definitions as given by Black, see elsewhere on this web page.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (284)  |  Chemistry (250)  |  Definition (191)  |  Discover (196)  |  Effect (165)  |  General (156)  |  Heat (100)  |  Improve (54)  |  Law (513)  |  Mixture (26)  |  Study (461)  |  Subordinate (8)  |  Useful (98)

Heat may be considered, either in respect of its quantity, or of its intensity. Thus two lbs. of water, equally heated, must contain double the quantity that one of them does, though the thermometer applied to them separately, or together, stands at precisely the same point, because it requires double the time to heat two lbs. as it does to heat one.
— Joseph Black
In Alexander Law, Notes of Black's Lectures, vol. 1, 5. Cited in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography: Volumes 1-2 (1981), 178.
Science quotes on:  |  Heat (100)  |  Intensity (20)  |  Quantity (64)  |  Temperature (46)  |  Thermometer (9)  |  Water (292)

The chemist studies the effects produced by heat and by mixture, in all bodies, or mixtures of bodies, natural or artificial, and studies them with a view to the improvement of arts, and the knowledge of nature.
— Joseph Black
Restating his own definition in fewer words, from the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 11.
Science quotes on:  |  Art (284)  |  Artificial (32)  |  Body (243)  |  Chemist (88)  |  Definition (191)  |  Effect (165)  |  Heat (100)  |  Improvement (73)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Mixture (26)  |  Natural (167)  |  Nature (1211)  |  Produce (100)  |  Study (461)

The opinion I formed from attentive observation of the facts and phenomena, is as follows. When ice, for example, or any other solid substance, is changing into a fluid by heat, I am of opinion that it receives a much greater quantity of heat than that what is perceptible in it immediately after by the thermometer. A great quantity of heat enters into it, on this occasion, without making it apparently warmer, when tried by that instrument. This heat, however, must be thrown into it, in order to give it the form of a fluid; and I affirm, that this great addition of heat is the principal, and most immediate cause of the fluidity induced. And, on the other hand, when we deprive such a body of its fluidity again, by a diminution of its heat, a very great quantity of heat comes out of it, while it is assuming a solid form, the loss of which heat is not to be perceived by the common manner of using the thermometer. The apparent heat of the body, as measured by that instrument, is not diminished, or not in proportion to the loss of heat which the body actually gives out on this occasion; and it appears from a number of facts, that the state of solidity cannot be induced without the abstraction of this great quantity of heat. And this confirms the opinion, that this quantity of heat, absorbed, and, as it were, concealed in the composition of fluids, is the most necessary and immediate cause of their fluidity.
— Joseph Black
Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry, delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1803), Vol. I, 116-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Change Of State (2)  |  Latent Heat (6)  |  Observation (445)

Upon the whole, Chymistry is as yet but an opening science, closely connected with the usefull and ornamental arts, and worthy the attention of the liberal mind. And it must always become more and more so: for though it is only of late, that it has been looked upon in that light, the great progress already made in Chymical knowledge, gives us a pleasant prospect of rich additions to it. The Science is now studied on solid and rational grounds. While our knowledge is imperfect, it is apt to run into error: but Experiment is the thread that will lead us out of the labyrinth.
— Joseph Black
In Alexander Law, Notes of Black's Lectures, vol. 3, 88. Cited in Charles Coulston Gillispie, Dictionary of Scientific Biography: Volumes 1-2 (1981), 181.
Science quotes on:  |  Addition (29)  |  Attention (115)  |  Chemistry (250)  |  Error (275)  |  Experiment (600)  |  Grounds (2)  |  Imperfection (24)  |  Knowledge (1293)  |  Labyrinth (9)  |  Lead (158)  |  Liberal (8)  |  Mind (743)  |  Ornament (15)  |  Pleasant (20)  |  Progress (362)  |  Prospect (22)  |  Rational (56)  |  Science (2043)  |  Solid (50)  |  Study (461)  |  Thread (18)  |  Useful (98)  |  Worth (97)

What I have related is sufficient for establishing the main principle, namely, that the heat which disappears in the conversion of water into vapour, is not lost, but is retained in vapour, and indicated by its expansive form, although it does not affect the thermometer. This heat emerges again from this vapour when it becomes water, and recovers its former quality of affecting the thermometer; in short, it appears again as the cause of heat and expansion.
— Joseph Black
Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry, delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1803), Vol. I, 173.
Science quotes on:  |  Change Of State (2)  |  Latent Heat (6)

You may perceive something of the distinction which I think necessary to keep in view between art and science, between the artist and the man of knowledge, or the philosopher. The man of knowledge, the philosopher, is he who studies and acquires knowledge in order to improve his own mind; and with a desire of extending the department of knowledge to which he turns his attention, or to render it useful to the world, by discoveries, or by inventions, which may be the foundation of new arts, or of improvements in those already established. Excited by one or more of these motives, the philosopher employs himself in acquiring knowledge and in communicating it. The artist only executes and practises what the philosopher or man of invention has discovered or contrived, while the business of the trader is to retail the productions of the artist, exchange some of them for others, and transport them to distant places for that purpose.
— Joseph Black
From the first of a series of lectures on chemistry, collected in John Robison (ed.), Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry: Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (1807), Vol. 1, 3.
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Quotes by others about Joseph Black (5)

In one department of his [Joseph Black’s] lecture he exceeded any I have ever known, the neatness and unvarying success with which all the manipulations of his experiments were performed. His correct eye and steady hand contributed to the one; his admirable precautions, foreseeing and providing for every emergency, secured the other. I have seen him pour boiling water or boiling acid from a vessel that had no spout into a tube, holding it at such a distance as made the stream’s diameter small, and so vertical that not a drop was spilt. While he poured he would mention this adaptation of the height to the diameter as a necessary condition of success. I have seen him mix two substances in a receiver into which a gas, as chlorine, had been introduced, the effect of the combustion being perhaps to produce a compound inflammable in its nascent state, and the mixture being effected by drawing some string or wire working through the receiver's sides in an air-tight socket. The long table on which the different processes had been carried on was as clean at the end of the lecture as it had been before the apparatus was planted upon it. Not a drop of liquid, not a grain of dust remained.
In Lives of Men of Letters and Science, Who Flourished in the Time of George III (1845), 346-7.
Science quotes on:  |  Experiment (600)  |  Introduce (41)  |  Lecture (67)

Nothing could be more admirable than the manner in which for forty years he [Joseph Black] performed this useful and dignified office. His style of lecturing was as nearly perfect as can well be conceived; for it had all the simplicity which is so entirely suited to scientific discourse, while it partook largely of the elegance which characterized all he said or did … I have heard the greatest understandings of the age giving forth their efforts in its most eloquent tongues—have heard the commanding periods of Pitt’s majestic oratory—the vehemence of Fox’s burning declamation—have followed the close-compacted chain of Grant’s pure reasoning—been carried away by the mingled fancy, epigram, and argumentation of Plunket; but I should without hesitation prefer, for mere intellectual gratification (though aware how much of it is derived from association), to be once more allowed the privilege which I in those days enjoyed of being present while the first philosopher of his age was the historian of his own discoveries, and be an eyewitness of those experiments by which he had formerly made them, once more performed with his own hands.
In 'Philosophers of the Time of George III', The Works of Henry, Lord Brougham, F.R.S. (1855), Vol. I, 19-21.
Science quotes on:  |  Lecture (67)

Unconscious, perhaps, of the remote tendency of his own labours, he [Joseph Black] undermined that doctrine of material heat, which he seemed to support. For, by his advocacy of latent heat, he taught that its movements constantly battle, not only some of our senses, but all of them; and that, while our feelings make us believe that heat is lost, our intellect makes us believe that it is not lost. Here, we have apparent destructability, and real indestructibility. To assert that a body received heat without its temperature rising, was to make the understanding correct the touch, and defy its dictates. It was a bold and beautiful paradox, which required courage as well as insight to broach, and the reception of which marks an epoch in the human mind, because it was an immense step towards idealizing matter into force.
History of Civilization in England (1861), Vol. 2, 494.
Science quotes on:  |  Courage (55)  |  Latent Heat (6)  |  Paradox (43)

Only about seventy years ago was chemistry, like a grain of seed from a ripe fruit, separated from the other physical sciences. With Black, Cavendish and Priestley, its new era began. Medicine, pharmacy, and the useful arts, had prepared the soil upon which this seed was to germinate and to flourish.
Familiar Letters on Chemistry (1851),5.
Science quotes on:  |  Henry Cavendish (7)  |  Chemistry (250)  |  Medicine (343)  |  Pharmacy (2)  |  Joseph Priestley (16)

The reputation of science which ought to be the most lasting, as synonymous with truth, is often the least so. One discovery supersedes another; and the progress of light throws the past into obscurity. What is become of the Blacks, the Lavoisiers, the Priestleys, in chemistry? … When any set of men think theirs the only science worth studying, and themselves the only infallible persons in it, it is a sign how frail the traces are of past excellence in it.
Characteristics: In the Manner of Rochefoucault's Maxims (1837), 148-149.
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See also:
  • 16 Apr - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Black's birth.
  • Joseph Black - Biography from Lives of Eminent and Illustrious Englishmen (1837).
  • Defining the True Scientist - excerpt from Joseph Black, Lectures on the Elements of Chemistry.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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