Lives of the fellows

Thomas Benjamin Davie

b.23 November 1895 d.14 December 1955
BA Stellenbosch(1914) MB ChB Liverp(1928) MD Liverp(1931) LLD Cantab(1948) MRCP(1931) FRCP(1940) FRSSAfr(1948)

Thomas Davie was a noted expert in the dying art of medical administration. This skill, which was not to show till the age of forty, may be traceable to his first chosen work as a science school teacher following his education at Paarl and the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, where he graduated in arts in 1914. This career, which he did not give up until 1924, had been interrupted by two periods of military service; the first as a trainee-officer in the Flying Corps in 1917, the second in the Transvaal Scottish Regiment during the Rebellion in Johannesburg in 1922, when he had a severe thigh wound.

As he had been born in 1895, the son of Thomas Benjamin and Caroline (Halliday) Davie, he was already twenty-nine when he entered the medical school of Liverpool in 1924, to hold the undergraduate Holt fellowship in physiology and to qualify M.B., Ch.B, with first class honours in 1928. Three years in house posts and a junior lectureship in pathology prepared him for his M.D. thesis on antibody production, a work which brought him the appointment of pathologist to the Walton Hospital. In 1933 he returned to the University as senior lecturer, and in 1935, after holding the chair of pathology at Bristol for two years, he succeeded his former chief, J. H. Dible, in the chair at Liverpool.

The outbreak of World War II brought out his innate talents; he organised the first blood bank in Liverpool and, for the Emergency Medical Service, the laboratory service for a large part of northern England. Eleven years of devoted work as whole-time dean of the faculty of medicine led to the invitation to return to his native South Africa as principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Capetown. These posts brought him honour and respect for his courage in fighting for the traditional freedoms of a university from all restrictions on the race and colour of its undergraduates, despite continual discomfort and disablement from a severe rheumatoid arthritis.

He died a month after his return to London for the installation of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, as chancellor of the University. If he had lived but a few months more he would have added to his Fellowship in 1940, to his LL.D. (Cantab.), 1948, and to his F.R.S. (S. Afr.), honorary degrees from the Universities of Liverpool and Oxford.

Davie was always a frank and friendly person. To the last he enjoyed life to the full within the limits set by his disablement. In 1921 he had married Vera Roper, daughter of the Rev. T. Roper; there were no children of the marriage.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1955, 2, 1567-8 (p); Cape Times, 15 (p), 23 Dec. 1955; Lancet, 1955, 2, 1395 (p); 1956, 1, 58-9; 5. Afr. med. J., 1956, 30, 275-6.]

(Volume V, page 95)

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