Lives of the fellows

Ivor Jones Davies

b.22 October 1880 d.30 October 1958
CBE(1953) MB BS Lond(1906) MD Lond(1911) MRCP(1911) FRCP(1925)

Ivor Davies was born at Pentre in the Rhondda Valley, the second son of E. H. Davies, of Nanternis, Cardiganshire, and Ann Davies, whose family came from the Vale of Glamorgan. He was educated at Cardiff Higher Grade School, the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, and St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. After house appointments at the Royal Free Hospital and clinical assistantships at St. Bartholomew’s and Great Ormond Street Hospitals, his health was uncertain, and he took a long voyage around the world, working for some months in Australia. He was appointed assistant physician to the King Edward VII Hospital (afterwards Cardiff Royal Infirmary) in 1914 and served this and other hospitals in the mining valleys faithfully and punctually until retirement in 1944.

From 1920 until 1952 he devoted much energy to the Ministry of Pensions Hospital at Rookwood, and it was for his work there that he was made a C.B.E.

He gave notable service, and incidentally made a clinical observation of permanent value in the Senghenydd mining disaster, when four hundred and forty men were killed. The rescue operations were at that time unparalleled in effort, and Davies went down the mine to try to set up a first-aid post in circumstances of great danger. He never mentioned his own part, but spoke thrillingly of the heroism of the rescuers. He observed that some of the men, protected by brattice from any possibility of burning, had skin lesions which appeared to be burns. J. B. S. Haldane visited the scene on the second day and he too was intensely interested in the lesions and suggested they might be hitherto unknown effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the following year Davies read an account of these findings to the Royal Society of Medicine, and Haldane took part in the discussion at which this view was accepted. He continued to reflect on the explanation and talked about it with Jethro Gough, who, reading the report of the injuries of the people killed in the Comet disaster, realised these were the same and also that the ‘hot-water bottle burns’, often the subject of great unhappiness to unjustly disbelieved nurses, were the same effects of local pressure under anoxic conditions. He was also an early observer of coalminers’ lung disease and did much to persuade both the unions and the management to recognise it.

When the clinical side of the Medical School at Cardiff started in 1921, Davies became senior assistant to the professor of medicine, and it was greatly to his credit that he alone stuck by the new School and its professor through its early years of bitterness.

In his Lumleian lectures of 1940 he dealt with Hodgkin’s disease.

He married Ethel, daughter of John Evans, town clerk of Aberystwyth, and had two daughters. After her death he married her sister Dilys, and lived in happiness in Aberystwyth, helping local physicians in times of staff shortage and delighting in Welsh nonconformist surroundings and the facilities of the National Library of Wales.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1958, 2, 1167; Lancet, 1958, 2, 1021-2; Times, 1, 4 Nov. 1958; I. J. Davies, Memories of a Welsh physician, [priv. print.], 1959.]

(Volume V, page 96)

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