John Angus Black

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 20 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3811
  1. Stephen Lock, former editor BMJ
  1. splock{at}

Polymathic paediatrician dedicated to ethnic minority needs

When John Black landed by ship at Singapore five days after the Japanese surrender he was faced with an unsolved problem: restoring to normality starving and emaciated civilians and allied former prisoners of war. As the doctors who entered the German concentration camps had found, nobody knew what diet was the most suitable, but too rapid a food intake might cause circulatory collapse and death, probably because of acute thiamine deficiency. The solution, Black and a colleague found and later published, was a graded diet starting with condensed milk, beaten eggs, sugar, and protein hydrolysate, together with multivitamins and antimalarials.1 The striking results included a weight gain of 2.5 kg in a week (these captives had lost 16-18 kg on average) along with a great increase in morale.

Yet, despite rewarding service in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) in India and Malaysia from 1944 to 1947, Black persisted with …

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