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James W. Black

I met Hilary Vaughan at a Student Ball in 1944 and we married in the summer of 1946, as soon as I graduated.

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Half-jokingly, I asked what was wrong with me. So we made a deal: I would run his biological research provided I had a free hand to run my new project.

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I had found myself a new mission - and once more my recurring dilemma between corporate commercial needs and personal scientific ambitions was solved unexpectedly.

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All I ever promised was that I was sure I could develop a new pharmacological agent which might answer a physiological question. Any utility would be implicit in that answer.

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I did help to set up an undergraduate course in medicinal chemistry and made progress in modelling and analysing pharmacological activity at the tissue level, my new passion.

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We paid off our debts, we learned some, made friends and returned in 1950 with a larger view of life. I had, however, no home, no income of any kind and no prospects whatsoever.

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My father, a mining engineer and colliery manager, gave his brood many advantages not least of which, for me, was his love of singing which gave music a central place in our lives.

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Apart from two periods of intense study, of music between the ages of 12 and 14 and of mathematics between the ages of 14 and 16, I coasted, daydreaming, through most of my school years.

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In teaching, I wanted to offer a general pharmacology course based on chemical principles, biochemical classification and mathematical modelling. In the event I achieved neither of my ambitions.

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The Wellcome Foundation offered me the chance to establish a small academic research unit, modestly funded, but with total independence. The real opportunity, however, came from King's College, London.

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