Lives of the fellows

Trevor Arthur Lloyd Davies

b.8 April 1909 d.1 May 1998
MRCS LRCP(1932) MB BS Lond(1932) MRCP(1933) MD(1934) FRCP(1952)

Trevor Lloyd Davies had a remarkable medical career, as an occupational physician, academic, senior civil servant and author. A brilliant undergraduate career at St Thomas’s culminated in 1932 with the university gold medal, together with honours in forensic medicine, in surgery and in obstetrics. Within the next two years he added the MRCP and MD qualifications and was appointed resident assistant physician at St Thomas’s in 1935.

His career changed course in 1936 when he joined Boots as an industrial medical officer, as occupational physicians were then known. He became the chief medical officer in 1946. His work with the company provided the material for a number of studies. The breadth of his interest in occupational medicine can be seen in a variety of papers and in his influential book The practice of industrial medicine (London, J & A Churchill, 1948).

In 1953 he went to Singapore, then part of Malaya, as professor of social medicine and public health. Shortly afterwards a Rockefeller travelling scholarship enabled him to travel through the USA, Canada, Fiji and Australia, giving him the opportunity to study at first hand how medical systems had evolved to meet local needs.

He returned to the UK in 1961 as senior medical inspector of factories, then in the Ministry of Labour. There, with the support of his friend Ronald Lane [Munk’s Roll, Vol.X, p.288] in Manchester, he set about bringing the statutory occupational medical services into the 20th century. One of his proposals, which did not meet with universal acclaim by his medical colleagues, was the abolition of the compulsory medical examination of juveniles entering factories, a procedure which had been introduced early in the reign of Queen Victoria.

The Ministry of Labour was, at that time, metamorphosing into the Department of Employment and he conceived the idea of a modern occupational health service able to give advice across the full range of activities of the Department of Employment, including statutory provisions for industrial rehabilitation. In the same way that present day occupational physicians regard themselves as independent professional advisers and not part of line management, so Lloyd Davies took this new service out of the Factory Inspectorate and away from the function of medical inspection. His vision was, therefore, to set up an Employment Medical Advisory Service. The resulting parliamentary bill was prevented from becoming law by the fall of the Labour government. The incoming Conservative administration, however, immediately recognized its merits; the proposals became law and the Employment Medical Advisory Service was set up in 1973.

A further advantage of the new organisation was that it had no firm attachments within the Department of Employment so that, should future circumstances allow, it could be moved across into the National Health Service and into mainstream medical services. That has not, unfortunately, happened and in some respects subsequent years have seen Lloyd Davies’ imaginative ideas reversed.

Trevor Lloyd Davies was appointed to lead the new Employment Medical Advisory Service as the first chief employment medical advisor and retired two years later. It is a measure of the man that, whilst leading those great administrative changes, he also supervised a major research project on the respiratory diseases of foundrymen.

Retirement brought a new field of activity. His second marriage, to Margaret Gracey, a senior civil servant with an interest in theology, resulted in a number of interesting, if controversial, joint publications. In their magnum opus The Bible: medicine and myth (Cambridge, Silent Books, 1993) they set out to explain the various diseases described in the Bible in the light of present day medical knowledge. Resurrection or resuscitation? published in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians (Vol.25, No.2, April 1991) explored whether the crucifixion of Jesus resulted in death and resurrection or in Jesus’ fainting followed by resuscitation. Their final publication saw Trevor’s experience in occupational medicine used to explore the possible use of hemlock in the mysterious deaths of two of Moses’ nephews.

Trevor Lloyd Davies sought neither publicity nor friends, preferring to be judged on his, not inconsiderable, merits and achievements. Although he did not suffer fools gladly, his appraisal of colleagues was invariably fair, even if at times tersely expressed. Those who were privileged to penetrate his somewhat gruff exterior - and accept his apparently idiosyncratic manner - found, as so often is the case, an intelligent and cultured man and a kindly friend. Some fifty years ago he instigated the foundation of a dining club, the Thackrah Club for senior occupational physicians which remains active. It is still regarded a privilege to be invited to join.

W R Lee

[The Independent 4 June 1998]

(Volume XI, page 341)

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