Black was a student at Edinburgh from 1752-54 and became professor of chemistry there in 1766. His main post was as a physician, but during his career, he is famed for discovering latent heat, specific heat, and carbon dioxide.
Laboratory equipment including glass tubes, thermometers and some ceramic distillation apparatus made by Josiah Wedgwood were uncovered along with some samples of mercury, arsenic and cobalt.
Black was a key figure in the Enlightenment but after his retirement, his equipment was stored in the cellar of the 17th century university library, on the north side of what is now the Old College. In 1820 the library was demolished, but now during a landscaping project, an archaeological dig has unearthed the hidden treasures.