S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Black, Surg-Maj William Thomas (mammalogy, veterinary science, medicine)

Born: 1824, Place not known.
Died: 1909, Place not known.

William Thomas Black (also known as William Galt Black), British army surgeon, served in the Cape of Good Hope frontier wars of 1846-1852 as assistant surgeon in the army medical staff. In 1851 he was stationed in British Kaffraria, at that time a separate colony west of the Kei River. The next year he contributed a paper on 'Cases of hepatitis, dysentery and diarroea' to the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal. In October 1853 he published a paper, 'On the mammalia of the Fish River Bush, South Africa, with notes on their habits' in the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal (July and October, 1853). It dealt with the game still to be found in the region, their habits, and the methods of hunting used by the local European and African populations. Many years later he wrote a short description of 'Partridges in South Africa' which appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh in January 1876. Some of his articles, including the first one above, were reprinted under the title The Fish River bush, South Africa, and its wild animals (Edinburgh, 1901). This publication includes a description of the topography and forestry of British Kaffraria. In 1905 his reminiscences were published in the Royal Army Medical Corps Journal.

In 1875, when Black was still assistant surgeon, he published a paper on "The canine distemper in South Africa" in the Veterinarian - his only known contribution to veterinary science. By 1879 he had been promoted to Surgeon-Major and published his "Notes on typhoid and remittent fevers in the Cape, Natal and Zululand" in the Medical Times and Gazette of 15 November 1879. He ascribed the cause of typhoid in Pietermaritzburg to impure water and inadequate drainage and sewage disposal, and observed that some of the other fevers were brought into Natal from Mozambique. The article includes a description of how malaria is treated by the natives of Delagoa Bay (now Baia de Maputo).

Some of his manuscripts and other materials relating to the Eastern Cape are housed in the National Library of South Africa, Cape Town (reference MSB53).

List of sources:
Curson, H.H. Memoirs of veterinary interest, 1795-1881. Journal of the South African Veterinary Medical Association, 1935, Vol. 6, pp. 78-107.

Google scholar. http://scholar.google.co.za Publications by W.T. Black.

Laidler, P.W. & Gelfand, M. South Africa: Its medical history, 1652-1898. Cape Town: Struik, 1971.

Mendelssohn, S. South African bibliography, 1910.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS). http://www.national.archives.gov.za/naairs.htm Documents relating to Black, William Thomas.

South African bibliography to the year 1925. London: Mansell, 1979.

Compiled by: C. Plug