John Black

Biography of John Black

Rev. John Black, Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, and Professor of Classics at the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh), was a student at the University of Glasgow in the late 18th century.

John was born in County Antrim, Ireland, in 1768. He studied at the University of Glasgow in the 1790s, and appears in the Class Lists for Ethics in session 1794-95 and Physics in session 1796-97. He was reportedly a member of the Argumentative Society (a debating society comprised of students studying for the ministry).

John did not officially matriculate at or graduate from the University of Glasgow. Until 1858, matriculation was only compulsory for students in the Faculty of Arts who wished to graduate, or for those who wished to vote in the Rectorial election. Other students would have probably paid a fee directly to their professor. There is no recorded reason why John did not graduate, but in the 18th century the graduation certificate was not as important as it is today. Letters of recommendation from professors were enough that students did not need to go to the added expense of graduating. It is also possible that John preferred not to take a graduation oath that referred to the Church of Scotland.

Having finished at the University, John returned to Ireland but quickly left due to rising political unrest. In 1797, he went to the United States with University of Glasgow graduate Samuel Brown Wylie. John taught in Philadelphia, ending up at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1799, he was ordained by the Reformed Presbytery, and became pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh in around 1800. In the 1820s John became Professor of Ancient Languages and Classical Literature at the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh).

John had at least three children: two sons (Samuel W Black, soldier, lawyer and politician, and Rev Andrew Watson Black), and one daughter (Elizabeth Thomson McClelland, nee Black).

John died in Pittsburgh in October 1849.


John Black
Born 1768.
Died 1849.
University Link: GU Degree:
Record last updated: 5th Aug 2019

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