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Founding Faculty Member Arthur Black Dies

August 21, 2009

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Professor emeritus Arthur L. Black, one of the School of Veterinary Medicine's founding faculty members, died August 14.

Black, a biochemist who earned his baccalaureate (1948) and doctoral degrees (1951) from UC Davis, joined the faculty in 1948 as a research assistant. He advanced through several positions before being appointed assistant professor in 1954. 

Together with Richard Freedland, he taught physiological chemistry, one of the largest and most popular undergraduate classes on campus.

Black, who taught undergraduates, veterinary students and medical students, received a 1976-1977 Distinguished Teaching Award from the UC Davis Academic Senate for his "natural ability to teach." Colleagues reported that their own teaching improved through their association with him. His doctoral students hailed from the US, Canada, India, and Indonesia. Many visiting scholars worked in his lab, including scientists from the US, Europe, Australia, Japan and Africa.

MIchael Bruss, professor emeritus, worked with Black as both student and colleague. "Dr. Black was my PhD major professor. He was a great mentor, and we performed and published several studies on ruminant metabolism. He was also very helpful to me when I returned to Davis as an assistant professor.  We remained friends and colleagues for the rest of his life. I and others who knew him will miss him a lot."

He was a member of the Department of Physiological Sciences (now Molecular Biosciences). He served as department chair from 1968 to 1974 and retired in 1991 after being part of the school's team for 43 years. 

He published many articles on ruminant metabolism, focusing on milk production in cows. He worked extensively with Max Kleiber (also his doctoral adviser) in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences to examine amino acids in lactating cows. The two were part of the campus "Tracer Team," using radioactive isotopes to track metabolic processes through the soil-plant-animal systems. 

Black was honored with a 1963 Borden Award in nutrition for his contributions to knowledge about the biosynthesis of milk.

Among his services to society was Black's assistance to the United Nations with advanced biomedical training and issues surrounding scientific applications of radioactivity, including then-new techniques such as the use of Carbon-14 in studies of nitrogen metabolism. He also provided advice to administrators during the development of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.