Tim Black

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 02 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h459
  1. Anne Gulland, London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Former chief executive of Marie Stopes International who championed broadening access to family planning services worldwide

Tim Black’s career was driven by his desire to broaden access to family planning services throughout the world. He founded Marie Stopes International in the mid-1970s, and pioneered a non-medicalised approach to family planning, putting services in the hands of nurses and midwives, and, later, community health workers.

Black’s epiphany came as a young doctor in a remote part of Papua New Guinea in the mid-1960s, when he proudly handed a child whose life he had saved back to its mother. She was a sex worker who had several other children to feed, and he realised by the look of despair on her face that he had handed her a problem.

Recalling the event years later, he said: “I suddenly realised that I had presented her not just with her baby, but with another mouth to feed—another dependent human being to whom she could offer nothing: no father, no education, no future—merely the cruel ritual of her bare survival.”

He returned to the UK and completed a diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. He then went to the University of North Carolina as a Ford fellow, where he gained a masters degree in population dynamics in 1969. It was there that he met fellow …

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