Lives of the fellows

David Aelwyn Williams

b.2 February 1907 d.14 March 1986
MRCS LRCP(1930) MB BCh Wales(1935) MD(1937) MRCP(1941) MSc Wales(1944) FRCP(1955)

David Williams was born in Cardiff and spent most of his life there. In retirement he lived in Barry, near Cardiff. His father was a mining engineer in South Wales and his mother was the daughter of a tin plate manufacturer.

Williams was educated at Cardiff High School and then went to the University of South Wales and Monmouthshire, at Cardiff, for the preclinical years of medical study. His clinical years should have been spent at Cardiff, but in 1927 the historic dispute closed the clinical school there and most of the students went to University College Hospital, London, where they were made welcome. It was there that Williams took the MRCS LRCP in 1930. He returned to Cardiff Royal Infirmary for posts as house physician and house surgeon, going on to City Lodge Hospital ( now St David’s Hospital), Cardiff, as resident medical officer. He was to retain an association with his hospital for many years.

The Welsh National School of Medicine came into being by Royal Charter in 1931, with Alex Mills Kennedy [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.228] already there as full time professor of medicine; a man of wide culture and devoted to his students. He made David Williams an assistant in the department of medicine in 1932, which began a life-time friendship.

Williams suffered from asthma and Kennedy encouraged him to study allergy and asthma. In 1933 the medical scene in Cardiff was changing with the opening of the Municipal Hospital at Llandough, near Cardiff. In order to expand his teaching facilities, Kennedy took over some of the medical beds with Williams as a full time physician in charge of the patients. In 1934, D Greenwood Wilson opened an asthma clinic at St David’s Hospital with David Williams in charge. Thus encouraged, he set up an asthma research programme - later to become the Asthma Research Unit, St David’s Hospital, and now at Sully Hospital. This led to a lifetime of research, to the setting up of pollen counting in Cardiff in the 1940s in cooperation with Mr Hyde, keeper of the department of botany in the National Museum, and to the study of mould spores as a cause of allergy and asthma. Research at the asthma clinic resulted in many publications from 1950-76 on the natural history of asthma and its treatment.

During the second world war, part of University College Hospital came to Cardiff; the department of medicine with Max Rosenheim, later Lord Rosenheim of Camden [Munk's Roll, Vol.VI, p.394], and Sir Thomas Lewis [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.531] arrived at Llandough Hospital. Lord Rosenheim later remarked that on his visit to arrange the move he met a new kind of physician - one who willingly shared his beds with another. He and ‘DA’ became firm friends. Sir Thomas Lewis and David Williams developed a mutual respect and had a common interest in research topics.

Williams became consultant physician to the Cardiff teaching hospitals, clinical teacher in medicine, and examiner in the MB Wales. Teaching was important to him and his ability was recognized at all levels. He instituted postgraduate rounds which were popular with aspirants for higher qualifications. To the select few, his guidance and advice on medical research were invaluable. He was a founder member of the British Society of Clinical Allergy, the European Society of Allergy and of the Asthma Research Council, and was proud of his fellowship of the American Academy of Allergy.

‘DA’ was a family man, delighting in his four children and proud of their ability at work, in sport, and in field events. Two are doctors: a daughter in practice and a son who is a consultant in rheumatology. ‘DA’ was a keen fisherman and loved his country cottage, with its fishing, near Brechfa in Carmarthenshire. He was also a music lover and as his physical handicap increased music played an important part, especially in his retirement years.

David Williams was soft spoken, quiet and modest, and deeply interested in people and their welfare. His old students and colleagues held him in highest regard, and he was always pleased to have good news of them. He kept in touch with his specialty and his department until the end. He died at the home of his daughter in Barry.

AJ Thomas


(Volume VIII, page 540)

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