Lives of the fellows

Daniel (Sir) Davies

b.November 1899 d.18 May 1966
KCVO(1951) CVO(1947) BSc Wales(1921) MRCS LRCP(1923) MB BCh(1924) MD(1927) MRCP(1926) FRCP(1932)

Sir Daniel Davies died at the age of 66 after a long illness, borne throughout with great fortitude. He remained available at his practice until a very few weeks before the end. His father was the Rev. D. Mardy Davies of Pontcymmer, Glamorgan, where he spent his early life. There can be no doubt that the vivid characters he must have encountered in his father’s Ministry must have had a permanent effect on his character. Throughout his life he spoke Welsh whenever possible, and he was an acknowledged authority on Welsh classics.

After schooling in Bridgend he went to the medical school in the University College, Cardiff, where he qualified in 1924. He became house physician to the Professor of Medicine and it was during the tenure of this office that the writer met him, whilst on a visit to lecture in Professor E.H. Kettle’s department. This was at the time when great biochemical expansion was taking place in the Middlesex Hospital Medical School. It will be remembered that after the 1914-18 war Chemical Pathology became the most sought after subject and its application to clinical medicine proved to be one of the greatest of post-war advances. The department of Biochemistry at this time, at the Middlesex Hospital, was housed in the Bland-Sutton Institute of Pathology but the expansion was so rapid that a new department was decided upon and the Courtauld Institute of Biochemistry was planned and opened in 1928. This Institute contained a whole floor devoted entirely to clinical biochemistry and it struck the writer that Davies would be the ideal man to develop this section of the department. Fortunately this appealed to him, and he joined us in 1927 just before the Institute was opened. No better choice could possibly have been made. Davies threw himself into the work with that enthusiasm that all of us got to know so well in later years. He established on a sound basis the clinical section of the department, where patients attended in order to have investigations performed. Again, there can be no doubt that Davies’s irresistible charm paved the way for the popularity of these personal tests. It was said at that time that he could make even the swallowing of a gastric tube a pleasant experience. He spent some years in the Courtauld Institute and began some of the researches on gastric secretion upon which his reputation was in later years to depend.

Despite his great success at Chemical Pathology, Davies realized that his heart was really in clinical medicine, and with great regret on all sides he left the Courtauld Institute to become Registrar to Sir Robert Young, then senior physician to the Middlesex Hospital. This appointment presented perhaps the finest clinical tuition in London, and Davies certainly made the most of it and profited greatly. He became a Member of the College in 1926 and a Fellow in 1932.

Davies left the Middlesex Hospital on his appointment to the staff of the Royal Free Hospital. Here he occupied all the medical positions on the staff, finishing as senior physician. He was later senior physician to the Hospital of St. John and Elizabeth, a position in which he took great interest. He was a teacher renowned for the clarity of his exposition and the liveliness of his rounds.

Quite early in his clinical career he attracted the attention of Lord Dawson of Penn, and so high was Dawson’s opinion of him that he recommended Davies for the appointment as physician to the household of King George VI. Later he became physician, and then extra-physician, to the Queen.

He was noted for some profound pieces of clinical research, perhaps the most important being his clinical observations on gastric secretion in relation to age. The papers covering this subject are regarded as authoritative classics today.

He also conducted a very extensive investigation on the part that could be played by anti-pneumococcal serum in the treatment of chest diseases. These observations were conducted in collaboration with Lord Dawson and Sir Lionel Whitby, but the introduction of the sulphonamides rendered this investigation only of historical interest. He gave the Bradshaw Lecture in 1935.

Important though his researches were, it is perhaps as a man and as a personal physician that Daniel Davies will be remembered by all who came into contact with him. As a physician he was sympathetic and kindly in the extreme. He was always available at any time of the day or night and at any time of the year, holidays included. Another characteristic was that he always appeared to have unlimited time and could enter into long conversations with patients whatever their rank. He moved in a very wide circle and counted among his friends people in every walk of life. He was particularly fond of political discussions and a life-long friend and patient was Aneurin Bevan. It was a great privilege to be received in his home and to hear the brilliant exchanges between Dan and Aneurin.

His wife Vera contributed greatly to the medical household and she survived him, with two daughters, one of whom happily became my son's wife.

Sir Charles Dodds

[Brit. med. J., 1966, 1, 1364; Lancet, 1966, 1, 1221; Times, 19 May, 1966, 30 Mat, 1966; Western Mail, 10 Jun 1966]

(Volume VI, page 141)

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