Kenneth Black was born at Scarborough, the son of George Barnard Black, a solicitor and company director, and his wife Annie Elizabeth Hirst, daughter of John Hirst, minister of religion. He received his early education at Bootham School, York, and then studied natural science at Leeds University for a year before going up to King’s College, Cambridge, as an exhibitioner. He gained a first class in the natural sciences Part I, and also excelled in athletics. In 1931 he won the Cambridge University Athletic Club’s senior sports one mile in four minutes 38 seconds, and was awarded his blue for cross country running.
In 1932 Kenneth Black entered the medical college of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, with which he was to remain associated for the rest of his life. He qualified with the conjoint in 1935, obtaining his Cambridge MB in 1937 and his membership of the College in the same year. He was appointed house physician to George Graham [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI,p.205] and later became his chief assistant. At an early stage of his career he developed an interest in biochemical disorders, especially in diabetes. In 1940 he became a consultant with the Emergency Medical Service, before being commissioned in the RAMC in 1942. He served in West Africa and India as a medical specialist, and later as officer in charge of a medical division with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
Shortly after demobilization in 1946 he was appointed consultant physician at Bart’s and was elected to the Fellowship of the College that same year. He took charge of the diabetic clinic at Bart’s, and under his leadership it became a model for developments eleswhere, with an accent on team work and cooperation between dieticians, chiropodists, social workers, and his ophthalmological and biochemical colleagues. He was also involved with the early activities of the British Diabetic Association.
He served on the staff of St Luke’s Hospital for the Clergy, and was an examiner in medicine for London University, the Society of Apothecaries and the College.
By nature he was a shy man. avoiding all forms of ostentation. He enjoyed many friendships, and his qualities of gentleness and kindness were combined with tremendous strength of mind when defending principles in which he believed. Throughout the years he retained his youthful appearance and continued to enjoy athletic pursuits.
His family, on both sides, were Methodists and he was brought up under strict Methodist traditions. While living in London he became greatly involved with Hinde Street Methodist Church, where he held many offices, and developed a lasting interest in theology. He studied the New Testament in depth and read widely on the subject. His Christian faith was the greatest force in his life, and his medical work and contact with patients were entirely fulfilling for him.
In 1959 he married Virginia, daughter of Herbert Lees, stockbroker, and they had two daughters, Anne and Clare. He was a devoted family man and in retirement they enjoyed family life to the full; at home with long walks on the South Downs when his old love of botany was shared by all, and opportunities for travel abroad where he could pursue his interest in archaeology. His wife and daughters survived him.
[Brit.med.J., 1987,295,1493; Lancet, 1987,2,753-4]