Skip to main content


Professor Dame Carol Mary Black, DBE, FRCP, BSD was the Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge until 2019. From 2006 to 2016, she advised the British Government on the relationship between work and health. She is a medical practitioner and an expert on the disease scleroderma.

An only child, Black was born into an unacademic family in Barwell, Leicestershire, a few months after the outbreak of the Second World War. She attended grammar school in the 1950s where she became head girl.

She first studied history at Bristol University, graduating as a Bachelor of Arts. She then moved to a British colony – the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in the Pacific Ocean – where she worked as a schoolteacher.

In 1965 Black enrolled as a (largely self-funding) mature student in the first intake of 'pre-clinical' medical students to Bristol University; she sparkled academically, winning prizes in surgery, obstetrics and pathology.

She graduated in medicine in 1970 at the age of 30 and obtained full registration with the General Medical Council the following year

After graduating, Black stayed in Bristol to work in general hospital medicine as a junior doctor. She gained a higher degree by researching the rare skin and connective tissue disease scleroderma and in 1974 passed the Royal College of Physicians membership examination.

Black moved to Hammersmith Hospital in London the following year for specialist training. In 1981, she took up an offer of an appointment as a consultant rheumatologist at the nearby West Middlesex Hospital.

After eight years in an NHS general hospital as a consultant, Black opted for a move back into academic rheumatology by taking a job at the Royal Free teaching hospital in Hampstead, later becoming a professor and then the hospital's medical director. The rheumatology unit she established there has a strong interest in scleroderma: it is a national tertiary referral centre for patients suffering from the illness and is the major European centre for clinical research into the disease, with a particular focus on trying to understand the pathological process of fibrosis or scarring that characterises the condition at a histological level. The unit also has a strong tradition of high-quality teaching aimed at medical students and specialists-in-training.

Black is an international expert on scleroderma. Partly as a result of her work, much can now be done to ameliorate the effects of the condition, although a specific treatment for the disease remains elusive.

Black was Principal of Newnham College until July 2019, a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and a member of the governing body of Uppingham School. In 2018, the 20th anniversary of the British Library's opening of its St. Pancras building, Black was appointed Chair of the British Library.