Duncan Black

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Duncan Black
Born (1908-05-23)23 May 1908
Motherwell, Scotland
Died 14 January 1991(1991-01-14) (aged 82)
Paignton, England
Nationality British
Field Social economics
School or
Public Choice school
Alma mater University of Glasgow
Influences Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
Ronald Coase
Anthony Downs
Influenced Gordon Tullock

Duncan Black (23 May 1908 – 14 January 1991) was a Scottish economist who laid the foundations of social choice theory. In particular he was responsible for unearthing the work of many early political scientists, including Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and was responsible for the Black electoral system, a Condorcet method whereby, in the absence of a Condorcet winner (e.g. due to a cycle), the Borda winner is chosen.[1]


Black was born in Motherwell, Scotland, an industrial town south east of Glasgow, to a working-class family. He graduated from the Dalziel High School in Motherwell and then studied mathematics and physics at the University of Glasgow. He then enrolled for a degree in economics and politics which he finished with first class honours in 1932. He started teaching at the newly formed Dundee School of Economics (later part of the University of Dundee). There Black was influenced by his colleague Ronald Coase, originator of the Theory of the Firm. He later taught at the University College of North Wales (now Bangor University) and Glasgow.

Black had difficulties finding editors willing to publish his work, and some of it was self-published and he remained relatively unknown. Black also had visiting positions in the United States, at the universities of Rochester, Chicago, Virginia and Michigan State. These occurred after William H. Riker reviewed his work in 1961.[2][3] He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1980.[4]


The archives for Duncan Black are maintained by the Archives of the University of Glasgow (GUAS).

See also


  1. Eamonn Butler, Public Choice: A Primer, London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 2012, p. 32
  2. W. Riker, Voting and the Summation of Preferences: An Interpretive Bibliographical Review of Selected Developments During the Last Decade, American Political Science Review, 55 (1961).
  3. The Theory of Committees and Elections by Duncan Black, and Committee Decisions with Complementary Valuation by Duncan Black and R. A. Newing, Revised Second Editions, edited by Iain McLean, Alistair McMillan and Burt Monroe, Kluwer Academic Publishing, 1998.
  4. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 26 July 2011.

Further reading

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