Lives of the fellows

Lindsay Alexander Gordon Davidson

b.18 June 1926 d.1 November 2011
MB ChB Edin(1948) MD Birm(1962) FRCP Edin(1962) FRCP(1970) FRACP(1977) FRACMA(1980) FRCPS(1983) FFCM(1983) FFPHM(1989)

Lindsay Davidson was foundation professor of medicine and head of the department of medicine at the University College of Rhodesia and then director of the Commonwealth Institute of Health in Sydney, Australia. Born in Edinburgh, he was the son of Lindsay Gordon Davidson, a civil servant, and his wife, Elizabeth Anderson née Mudie, whose father, Thomas, was a farmer. Educated at George Watson’s College in Edinburgh, he studied medicine at Edinburgh University and the Royal Infirmary. At school and university his nickname, universally used, was ‘Tank’. Qualifying in 1948, one of the first intake of doctors when the NHS began, he did house jobs at the Church of Scotland Deaconess Hospital and then at the Royal Infirmary. The following year he joined the RAMC to do his National Service and served in Kenya and Uganda where he treated Idi Amin, then a captain in the Ugandan Army.

Demobilised in 1951, he worked at hospitals in West Hartlepool and Durham before returning to Scotland to work as a registrar at the Royal Infirmary in Dundee in 1953. The following year he returned to Durham as Luccock research fellow at King’s College, Durham University where he stayed for two years before moving to Birmingham as a lecturer in medicine and senior research fellow at the University. He was at Birmingham from 1956 to 1959 and, during the time he spent there, he became an expert in cardiopulmonary disorders and gained a doctorate.

Moving to the USA in 1960, he was a fellow of the John Polachek Foundation before becoming associate in medicine at the cardiopulmonary laboratory of Columbia University in New York. He was the first Scotsman to receive a Rockefeller travel grant.

On his return, he was appointed honorary professor of medicine at Birmingham and foundation professor of medicine and head of the department of medicine at the University College of Rhodesia. The holder of both appointments from 1962 to 1970, he also became the first dean of the Rhodesian College in 1967 and continued to practice as a consultant physician to the Rhodesian Ministry of Health in African and non-African hospitals. Back in the UK, after a brief time in Glasgow, he then spent seven years in Wales as a consultant physician to the University Hospital of Wales (UHW). While there he also ran a private practice, chaired the Cardiff division of the BMA and co-ordinated the first intake of patients at the UHW.

In 1977 he was appointed director of the Commonwealth Institute of Health in Sydney, Australia. He was also a professor of epidemiology at the University of Sydney, a consultant physician in thoracic and tropical medicine at the North Shore Hospital, a consultant to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and director of the Vietnam Veterans’ Herbicide Exposure Study. The Australian government’s department of health also used his services as a senior scientific advisor on health services research and policy.

At the end of his contracts in Australia, he returned to Glasgow and was appointed a consultant in public health medicine for the Greater Glasgow Health Board, working on their cardiovascular disease prevention programme. It was while he was in Glasgow that he was invited to treat HM the Queen. A fellow of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh, London, Australia and Glasgow, he was in demand all over the world for lectures and seminars. In the course of his career, it was estimated, he worked in four continents and almost 100 countries.

He retired in 1991 but continued to work for several more years on a consultancy basis. A convivial man, it was remarked of him that he was ‘as famous for his dinner parties as for his ward rounds’. Other favourite pastimes were golf, fishing, listening to music and photography.

In 1954 he married Joyce Mary née Mitcalfe. She was also medically qualified and her father, Edward Thornton Mitcalfe, was an accountant. They had a son and two daughters. The marriage ended in divorce and he married Gillian in the mid 1970s. When he died, he was survived by Gillian and his children, Jane, Gavin and Claire.

RCP editor

[The Herald Scotland www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/obituaries/13048555.Lindsay_Davidson/ ; Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh www.rcpe.ac.uk/print/obituary/professor-lindsay-davidson-frcp-edin - both accessed 22 October 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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