In the words of the American man of letters Logan Pearsall Smith, ‘The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.’
This could not have come across more clearly in Professor Sue Black's Caritas Lecture. Though she reminded the audience repeatedly throughout her talk that her job is not nearly as exciting or dramatic as is portrayed in fiction, she convinced no one that that is the case. The winner of multiple prestigious awards, the author of numerous books, and the lead forensic anthropologist in many UK investigations into war crimes, Professor Black was always going to be an interesting speaker.
Forensic anthropology is a tremendously varied and stimulating field, though most people couldn't say what it involves. Professor Black began by telling us that the key part of her job is the upholding of justice and the discovery of the truth. Solving a case, she said, is the job of the courts and the police, but it is her job to provide the facts. The audience was led through a wide range of cases she has taken throughout her inspiring career including investigating war crimes, identifying victims of natural disasters, and answering centuries-old questions.
The extent of Professor Black's expertise and her intimate knowledge of the field was astonishing. Certainly, she did not nearly scratch the surface of the detail involved in her work, but what she did share was specific enough to leave anyone in awe of the intricacy and scale of it.
Professor Black also shared her own story of how she stumbled upon her vocation and it was refreshing to hear of someone happening upon a career that suited her perfectly when that path is not always so clear cut. Her revelations about a field most people know little of left endless possibilities for other unknown interests. Dr Black's lecture opened doors of intrigue.
Forensic anthropology is certainly not for everyone. It requires an unrelenting passion and a strong stomach. Thankfully, Professor Sue Black has both, and we were lucky to have that passion and interest shared with us in such a fascinating and unique lecture that captivated even the most squeamish of listeners.
Kirsty Graham (S6)