Sir David Jack

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The Independent Online

Further to your obituary of Sir David Jack (9 December), Fifers are famous for dogged determination, writes Tam Dalyell.

And none more famous, among medical cognescenti, than for two remarkable pharmacological pioneers, friends since they were teenagers from large mining families in the Cowdenbeath area, which returned the communist Willie Gallagher to the House of Commons: James Black, born on 14 June 1924, and David Jack, born on 22 February 1924.

Black, by inventing propranolol and cimetidine, saved hundreds of thousands of us with Beta blockers; Jack was the guardian angel of those who have relatives vulnerable to asthma.A quarter of a century ago, I was having abuse heaped on me by a constituent in West Lothian, fired by Animal Rights propaganda. I happened to know that this constituent had an asthmatic nephew. So as a last resort, I contacted David Jack, as a fellow enthusiast for the Research Defence Society. He wrote her a marvellous letter, explaining why mice had to be used in experiments, as from a neighbour 10 miles across the Firth of Forth as the crow flies. He told her how research in animals had been absolutely crucial to the development of medicines on which her nephew depended. She had the grace to apologise, thank Jack, and the courage to explain what Jack had said to the rest of her animal rights cell. The group, to my relief, became infinitely more sensible as a result of the trouble that Jack took.