Professor Dame Sue Black
BSc (Hons) Anatomy, 1982
From Aberdeen to Leading Forensic Scientist
Professor Dame Sue Black is a leading forensic anthropologist, anatomist and academic. Sue has worked on high-profile forensic investigations and identified thousands of victims of war crimes and natural disasters. Sue’s bestselling book, ‘All That Remains: A Life in Death’ details her relationship with death over her three decades in forensic science. Here we find out how Sue went From Aberdeen to Leading Forensic Scientist.
Born and raised in Inverness, Sue first developed an interest in anatomy at the age of 13 during her Saturday job in a butcher shop. Being the first in her family to attend University, Sue did not initially consider an academic path. It was her biology teacher at Inverness Royal Academy who insisted she was suited to go to University. Sue went on to study anatomy at the University of Aberdeen, graduating with a BSc and then remaining at Aberdeen to complete her PhD.
Upon graduating, Sue was appointed as lecturer in Anatomy at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was here that she became increasingly involved in forensic anatomy, when the police would occasionally bring bones to her to be identified. Sue began to work on high-profile cases for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the United Nations identifying victims of various conflicts.
Sue was the leading forensic anthropologist for the UK response to war crimes in Kosovo in 1999, where she worked to identify the 44 refugees who were murdered in an outhouse by Serbian troops. She also contributed to the identification of victims from the Boxing Day tsunami in Asia in 2004 as well as two tours of Iraq. Sue then returned to academia when she became professor of anatomy and forensic anthropology at Dundee University, where she worked for 15 years.
She has not only helped to identify the victims of crime and disasters but also assisted the prosecution of perpetrators. She received a police commendation for her work developing new forensic techniques to identify the vein and skin patterns in the hands and forearms. The method has aided the identification of child sex abusers and led to multiple convictions.
Sue was awarded an OBE for her work in Kosovo, as well as a Damehood in 2016. Her bestselling book, ‘All That Remains: A Life in Death’ is a memoir to her life in forensics and was awarded the Saltire Book of the Year Award in 2018. In 2020 she published 'Written in Bone: Hidden Stories in What We Leave Behind'.
Sue was Pro Vice Chancellor for Engagement at Lancaster University for 4 years and has recently been appointed as President of St John's College, Oxford. In 2021 she entered the House of Lords as a Crossbench peer taking the title of The Baroness Black of Strome.