Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Davis, David Daniel

DAVIS, DAVID DANIEL, M.D. (1777–1841), physician, was born in 1777 at Carnarvon. He entered at the university of Glasgow in 1797, and graduated M.D. there in 1801. He settled in practice at Sheffield, where he was physician to the infirmary from 1803 to 1813. He removed to London in 1813, was admitted a licentiate of the College of Physicians 25 June 1813, and practised midwifery. Following the custom of the period, he delivered lectures on midwifery at his own house, 4 Fitzroy Street, London, and soon had a large class. He attended the Duchess of Kent at the birth of Queen Victoria, and attained large practice. He was obstetric physician to University College Hospital from 1834 to 1841. His first publication was a translation of Pinel's ‘Treatise on Insanity’ (Sheffield, 1806), with an introduction by himself, compiled from standard authors. His most important book appeared in 1836, ‘The Principles and Practice of Obstetric Medicine, in a series of systematic Dissertations on Midwifery and on the Diseases of Women and Children,’ 2 vols. 4to. It is a comprehensive treatise containing no discovery, but entitling its author to a high place among writers on midwifery of the second rank (Matthews Duncan). In 1840 Davis published ‘Acute Hydrocephalus, or Water in the Head, an Inflammatory Disease, and curable equally and by the same means with other Diseases of Inflammation.’ Acute hydrocephalus, now generally known as tubercular meningitis, is a disease invariably fatal, and Davis's view that it is curable is due to an imperfect acquaintance with its morbid anatomy, which prevented its distinction from other forms of inflammation of the membranes of the brain and of cerebral disturbance. His proposed methods of cure are large doses of mercury, emetics, and bleeding, but amidst many pages of quotation he only describes four cases seen by himself, and of these he tells enough to show that true acute hydrocephalus was absent in all. He had a son, John Hall Davis, who studied medicine and acted as a clinical assistant to his father. After a short illness Davis died at 17 Russell Place, Bedford Square, London, on 16 Dec. 1841. His portrait was painted in 1825 by John Jackson, R.A.

[Munk's Coll. of Phys. 1878, iv. 117; information from Dr. Matthews Duncan, F.R.S.]

N. M.