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Professor Dai Davies
Professor Dai Davies

Internal News - 14 December 2006

Professor Dai Davies

On the day of Professor Dai Davies’ funeral, we publish an obituary, followed by a personal tribute:

It is with great sadness that we record the recent death of David Davies, known to so many of us as Dai. In 1964, having obtained BSc, MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Manchester, he became a lecturer in the department of pharmacy at Bristol College of Science and Technology. In 1966 the College was transformed into Bath University of Science and Technology, and following that major change Dai and his colleagues in the Pharmacy Department relocated to the new Campus on Claverton Down.

His main research interests were the effects of ionising, ultraviolet and visible radiation on cellular integrity and the formulation of sterile products to improve drug delivery to specific sites in the body.

In 1971 he was promoted to a Senior Lectureship and in 1981 to Reader. Dai’s career continued to flourish in what was now the University of Bath and his contribution was further recognised in 1991 by an appointment to a personal chair.

In 1992 Dai took on the task of Head of School with enormous enthusiasm and commitment and Pharmacy and Pharmacology at Bath flourished under his leadership. In 1996 the University underwent a major structural change as the original Schools of study were phased out and the new Faculty structure came into being. Dai was a natural choice for the new post of Dean of the Faculty of Science to which he was appointed in 1996, taking up the post in 1997. He brought many years of experience to the new post and the Faculty of Science quickly settled down to the task of building and capitalising on the strong science foundation on which the University itself had been founded back in 1966.

In addition to his responsibilities as Dean Dai took a great interest in other areas of the University such as entrepreneurship and enterprise areas in which he enjoyed particular personal success. He was an ardent supporter of the arts, most particularly of music, and his rich Welsh voice brought great strength to the rendition of the National Anthem at Degree Congregations. Dai took early retirement in 2001, and worked part-time on technology transfer initiatives until 2003, and until very recently was still a regular visitor to the University.

Outside of his academic career, Dai’s passion was opera. He auditioned and was accepted in to the D’Oyle Carte Opera Company as an undergraduate but he chose academia instead of a career there. He continued as an amateur and was the lead baritone in many productions in Bath.

He was also a Caernarvon county tennis player and was a member of the Bathampton village cricket team and an avid rugby fan.

The University has lost one of its founders, a man who worked tirelessly for his discipline and for his colleagues. His qualities are summarised in one of the references for his appointment back in 1964: “He is all a man of honour should be, he is palpably honest, of considerable personal charm and utterly dependable. I think such men are few and far between.” The University is much the poorer for his passing.

He leaves his wife Barbara, daughter Jane (a second daughter Helen died tragically in her twenties) and three grandchildren. Our deepest sympathy is extended to his family.

A personal tribute from Professor Rex Tyrrell and Dr Stephen Moss, his second and third research students:

David Davies was one of the pioneers responsible for developing a research culture at the University of Bath which grew year on year and eventually resulted in Bath becoming one of the leading research Universities in the UK. Appropriately, David was to become its first Dean of Science in 1997. However David’s professional life could have taken a very different course. While still an undergraduate pharmacy student he auditioned and was accepted for the D’Oyle Carte Opera Company. The dilemma presented was resolved by his father who insisted that he complete his degree. Fate soon led him to Alan Tallentyre’s radiation biology research laboratory in the University of Manchester as a PhD student and the dream of opera stardom was replaced by the excitement of a barely more predictable career in science. He did, however, maintain a lifelong interest and activity in Opera and took many lead roles as a baritone in Bath

As a scientist and pharmacist David dedicated his entire professional career to the University of Bath. While the University was moving from Bristol to Bath David took a year working at the Argonne National Research Laboratory in Chicago with Herb Kubitschek, an inspirational biophysicist who had been part of Fermi’s group working on the Manhattan project. On his return to Bath he established one of the first postgraduate groups in the University and focused on the damaging effect of ultraviolet light on cells. In parallel with his research on cell biology David, with his colleague Brian Meakin, established a pharmaceutical research group working initially on ophthalmic medicines and later on solid dosage forms and aerosols. The group expanded and became the Centre for Drug Formulation Science, an early example of what would be known as a spin off company within the University. It eventually outgrew the University and became the nucleus of Vectura which is currently one of the UK’s successful pharmaceutical development companies.

The facts surrounding David’s career are well-recorded. However less easily defined is the major influence of his unique personality on people. During the week since his death, his colleagues at the University have received a stream of phone calls and correspondence from past students, postgraduates and colleagues expressing their memories and recollections of David as a mentor and a friend. Running through their collective thoughts there has been the theme of a man who was always there when needed to offer support and advice and to whom they felt indebted for helping them achieve their goals. David’s heritage to his profession is a network of scientists that have inherited his inspiration.