Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Davies, David Christopher

DAVIES, DAVID CHRISTOPHER (1827–1885), geologist and mining engineer, was born in 1827 at Oswestry, of humble parents, and was entirely self-educated. He was brought up to the trade of an ironmonger, but he acquired an excellent knowledge of the rocks of his native district, and about 1852 he began to practise with considerable success as a mining engineer. He contributed a paper on the ‘Bala Limestone’ to the ‘Proceedings’ of the Liverpool Geological Society for 1865. From this date Davies contributed numerous papers to the ‘Geological Magazine’ on such subjects as the carboniferous limestone of Corwen, the geology of the Vale of Clwyd, the millstone grit of North Wales, phosphate of lime, &c. In an important paper on the phosphorite deposits of North Wales, which appeared in the ‘Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society’ for 1875, Davies gave an account of the discovery and working out under his direction of certain beds of this mineral in North Wales. Another interesting paper from his pen, ‘On the Relation of the Upper Carboniferous Strata of Shropshire and Denbigh to Beds usually called Permian,’ appeared in the same publication for 1877. Davies was elected a fellow of the Geological Society in 1872. The Geologists' Association of London visited the North Wales border in 1876, and Davies acted as their guide; he also contributed to their ‘Proceedings’ a paper on the ‘Overlap of the Geological Formations’ in that district.

Besides the numerous papers which he contributed to various periodicals, Davies was the author of several standard books on economic geology. His ‘Treatise on Slate and Slate Quarrying’ appeared in 1878, and reached a second edition in 1880. In the preface to this book he expresses his obligations to his son, Mr. E. H. Davies. An important ‘Treatise on Metalliferous Minerals and Mining’ was published a little later; and the series was completed by a ‘Treatise on Earthy and other Minerals, and Mining,’ issued in 1884.

Davies also carried off several ‘Eisteddfod’ prizes for essays on geological subjects, including one of thirty guineas at Carnarvon in 1880 for an account of the ‘Metalliferous Deposits of Denbighshire and Flintshire;’ and another of twenty guineas at Liverpool in 1884 for a description of the ‘Fisheries of Wales.’ He was also a lay preacher, and the author of a volume of lay sermons entitled ‘The Christ for all the Ages.’

Davies was fully prepared to take advantage of the commercial prosperity which culminated about 1873. His success as a mining engineer was insured by his love for investigation, his thorough self-training, and his high reputation for integrity. Most of the mining undertakings upon which he reported favourably turned out well, and his connection soon extended far beyond North Wales. Between 1880 and 1885 several large quarries were opened under his direction in the south of France; one large quarry was developed by him in Germany; and he paid no fewer than nine visits to Norway upon mining business in that country. While returning from a trip to Norway he died suddenly of heart disease, on board the steamer Angelo, on 19 Sept. 1885.

Besides the articles named above, Davies was a frequent contributor to the ‘British Architect,’ the ‘British Quarterly,’ and several mining journals. He left incomplete an elaborate treatise upon the ‘Geology of North Wales,’ on which he had spent much time and trouble, and which he intended to be his principal work.

[Quart. Journ. Geol. Soc. xlii. 43; Athenæum, 26 Sept. 1885; Times, 24 Sept. 1885; private information from friends.]

W. J. H.