Lives of the fellows

Ivan de Burgh Daly

b.14 April 1893 d.8 February 1974
CBE(1959) BA Cantab(1914) MB BChir(1918) MA(1919) MD(1922) MD Birm(1928) FRSE(1934) FRS(1943) FRCP(1955)

Ivan de Burgh Daly was born in Leamington Spa. His father James Thomas Daly (1853-1928) entered the Royal Navy, and, having sailed three times round the world, retired in his twenties to take up engineering. He became Director of the Horseley Bridge and Engineering Company and of Littleton Colliery, Staffordshire. Daly’s mother, Amy, his father’s second wife, was daughter of Charles Pritchard, Rector of Withington, Hereford.

Daly descended from Anne, elder daughter of the tenth Earl of Clanricarde; in 1753 the eleventh Earl resumed by sign manual the old Norman surname de Burgh.

Daly was educated at Beech Lawn Preparatory School, Leamington Spa and at Rossall (1906-1911). He spent most of his holidays in his father’s extensive cellar workshops at his home in Leamington Spa. With this background, engineering seemed the ideal career. Two serious illnesses and a visit to his uncle, Dr. Malden, were probably factors which attracted him to medicine. In 1911 he went up to Caius College, Cambridge, reading physiology, chemistry, and anatomy for the Natural Science Tripos. He obtained a First in June 1914, just before the War, and was awarded an Exhibition.

He tried to join the Royal Flying Corps but failed because of a hernia. In October 1914 he entered St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, completed nine months of the clinical course, had his hernia repaired, and in 1915 joined the Royal Naval Air Service. After 392 flights, and wounded once, in France, he resigned his commission and completed his medical course at Bart’s, qualifying MB, B Chir Cambridge in August 1918. Commissioned again, this time as Temporary Captain, Medical Branch, RAF, he completed three months as house physician to John Drysdale. Drysdale combined vast clinical experience with a scientific outlook and it was his highly critical and analytical attitude that largely influenced Daly to consider seriously a scientific career. While house physician Daly recorded many ECGs from a case of auricular flutter being treated with digitalis to restore the normal rhythm. Leaving Bart’s in November 1918 he joined the Hampstead and later the York Invaliding Board, till demobilization in August 1919.

His interest in ECGs led to his appointment on 1 September 1919 as full-time assistant in Starling’s Institute of Physiology at University College London, to study the ECG in the heart-lung preparation. He was awarded a Beit Fellowship in 1920. He and Shellshear were the first in England to apply thermionic-valve amplification to a biological problem.

In 1923 Daly was awarded an extension of the Beit Fellowship for a fourth year and appointed Lecturer in Experimental Physiology at the Welsh National School of Medicine, Cardiff. He set up a laboratory for heart-lung preparation research, working with his life-long friend E.B Verney, on vacation from University College. They carried out elegant experiments showing that rise in aortic blood pressure elicited reflex bradycardia due to stimulation of baroreceptors in the wall of the aorta.

In October 1927 Daly moved to the Chair of Physiology at Mason College, Birmingham. During six years he did Birmingham a great service: the departmental staff and technical staff were greatly increased, a workshop set up, and a technician, a former tool-setter in industry, appointed to run it, and a departmental library and animal house were created. It became a very lively department. His research on the pulmonary and bronchial circulations began in earnest in Birmingham and continued until long after his retirement.

He was awarded the Thruston Medal by Caius College Cambridge in 1928 and served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Physiology from 1931-1934.

In 1933 Daly succeeded Sir Edward Sharpey-Schafer in the Chair of Physiology at Edinburgh, one of the three largest medical schools in the United Kingdom. With characteristic administrative ability and thoroughness he supervised the re-equipping and partial re-building of the Department. His main interest was his research on the pulmonary and bronchial circulations; physiologists from abroad came to work with him; publications announced valuable contributions to physiological knowledge. He became FRSE in 1934, Harvey and Hannah Lecturer, Cleveland, USA in 1936, and FRS in 1943.

Soon after the outbreak of World War II Daly and his staff became involved in government work on the physiology of high altitude flying, and on the action of war gases on the lungs. This became the subject of more than twenty reports to the Air Ministry and Ministry of Supply. In 1943 Daly was seconded from Edinburgh to become Director of the Medical Research Council’s Physiological Laboratory, Armoured Fighting Vehicle Training School, Lulworth, Dorset. Here, Sir Edward Pochin tells us, he contributed a perceptive judgement, brought to numerous problems his skill and advice, and maintained an atmosphere of committed work and an identification with urgent tasks of importance. The following notice recalls the amicable relations between Daly and his colleagues at Lulworth.

Memorandum re Security
‘Considerable inconvenience has been caused by members of the staff opening doors and cupboards which have been locked by others responsible for security. This practice will cease.
Staff are reminded that if they are in possession
a) of keys which happen to serve more than one function,
or (b) of the requisite knowledge and skill which enables them to dispense with keys altogether
these acquisitions should not constitute a stimulus for the evaluation of their utility.
I. de Burgh Daly’

After the war Daly became an Honorary Fellow of the Medical Society of Budapest. He served on the Council of the Agricultural Research Council from 1943 to 1947. The ARC, together with other bodies, undertook a comprehensive review of the post war needs for agricultural research, and in 1945 adopted a recommendation that a new institute be established to pursue fundamental research on the physiology of farm animals, including animal nutrition. Daly was appointed the first Director and took office on 1 January 1948. Acting on his advice the Council bought the 450-acre Babraham Hall property near Cambridge which became the ARC Institute of Animal Physiology. The creation of the Institute, with its three principal departments of physiology, biochemistry and experimental pathology took about five years. During the 10 years of Daly’s directorship Babraham became a centre of excellence in animal physiology over a wide field. The Institute’s Report for 1972-73 lists 144 on the staff, 114 visitors and 344 papers published during that year.

Daly was Lyon Lecturer, Minneapolis, in 1951; President of the Thoracic Society 1954-55 (and later Hon. Member); and Bertram Louis Abrahams Lecturer, RCP (1956).

After his retirement from Babraham in 1958, on his sixty-fifth birthday, Daly’s researches continued for a further seven years in the University Laboratory of Physiology at Oxford. Monograph No. 16 of the Physiology Society, on the Pulmonary and Bronchial Vascular Systems, written jointly by Daly and Dr. Catherine Hebb, gives a comprehensive account of their work. Daly published 96 papers, many of them in the Quarterly Journal of Physiology; he was a Member of its Editorial Board from 1933-1968. He was awarded the Baley Medal in 1959; was Bayliss-Starling Memorial Lecturer in 1967; became an Emeritus Member of the Biochemical Society in 1968 and an Honorary Member of the Physiological Society in 1969.

Daly enjoyed designing and constructing scientific apparatus in his workshop at home, and making miniature petrol engines for model speed boats with his boys.

He married Beatrice Mary (Molly) in 1920; her father, Alfred Leetham was a company director. Their elder son, Michael de Burgh Daly is Professor of Physiology in London University at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College; he became FRCP in 1978; their younger son, Peter, a Flight Lieutenant in the RAF, was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in 1959.

Daly died suddenly at his desk at his home in Long Crendon, Aylesbury, Bucks., in his eighty-first year.

Henry Barcroft

[Biogr.Mem.Roy.Soc., 1975, 21, 197-226;, 1974, 1, 397; Lancet, 1974, 1, 322; Times, 11 Feb 1974; Roy Soc. Edin. Year Book, 1975,1; St Bart’s. Hosp. Journal, Sept 1974, 259]

(Volume VI, page 135)

<< Back to List