Obituary: Dr Trevor Lloyd Davies

TREVOR LLOYD DAVIES had a remarkable medical career, as a physician, an occupational physician, an academic, a senior civil servant and, finally, a writer.

Born in 1909, he qualified in 1932 at St Thomas' Hospital in London, with the University Gold Medal and several prizes, proceeding immediately to specialist qualifications. Within three years he was appointed Resident Assistant Physician.

In 1937 his career took a new course when he joined the Boots company as an industrial medical officer (as occupational physicians were then known), becoming the chief medical officer in 1946. His work there provided the raw material for several papers and an influential book, The Practice of Industrial Medicine (1948), on the growing discipline of industrial medicine.

In 1953 he was appointed Professor of Social Medicine and Public Health at the University of Malaya, in Singapore, which was then part of Malaya. Shortly afterwards he was awarded a Rockefeller Travelling Fellowship, which enabled him to travel widely throughout the United States, Canada, Fiji and Australia. He was able to study the different systems of medical care, the social settings in which they operated and the preventive medical services which had resulted.

In 1961 he returned to England as Senior Medical Inspector of Factories, then in the Ministry of Labour. There, with the support of his friend Professor Ronald Lane in Manchester, he set about bringing the statutory occupational medical services into the 20th century.

One of his proposals, not universally acclaimed throughout the medical profession, was the abolition of the compulsory medical examination of juveniles entering factories; a procedure introduced, under very different circumstances, early in the reign of Queen Victoria.

The resulting parliamentary Bill was prevented from becoming law by the fall of the Labour government in 1970. The incoming Conservative administration, however, immediately recognised its merits, the proposals became law and the Employment Medical Advisory Service was set up in 1973.

This far-sighted move went far beyond bringing the statutory occupational medical services up to date. "Medical inspection" was moved out of the factory inspectorate and a separate medical service was established within the Ministry of Employment, able to give advice across all the functions of that ministry.

He had designed an independent service which, if future circumstances had allowed, could have been transferred to the then Ministry of Health and integrated with the National Health Service. Today that design has been reversed, with medical inspectors now part of the Health and Safety Executive, similar in some respects to the situation back in 1898.

Lloyd Davies was appointed the first Chief Employment Medical Adviser and retired two years later in 1973, having also led, throughout those great administrative changes, a major research project on the respiratory diseases of foundrymen, the results of which were published in 1971.

Retirement opened up a new field of activity. His second marriage, in 1975, to Margaret Gracey, a senior civil servant with an interest in theology, resulted in a number of interesting, if controversial, joint publications. In their magnum opus, The Bible: medicine and myth (1991), they set out to explain the various diseases described in the Bible in the light of present day medical knowledge.

"Resuscitation or Resurrection?", published in the Journal of the Royal College of Physicians, explored whether the crucifixion of Jesus resulted in death and resurrection or in his fainting followed by resuscitation. Their most recent publication, in 1994, "Hemlock: murder before the Lord", in the journal Medicine, Science and the Law, saw Lloyd Davies's experience in occupational medicine brought in to explore the possible use of hemlock in the mysterious deaths of two of Moses' nephews, Nadab and Abihu.

Lloyd Davies never sought publicity and did not suffer fools. Nevertheless, his appraisals of colleagues were always very fair, even if at times tersely expressed. To those privileged to know him he was an intelligent, firm and very kindly friend. Some 50 years ago he instigated the foundation of a dining club for senior occupational physicians, the Thackrah Club, which remains active. It is still regarded a privilege to be invited to join.

W. R. Lee and M. H. Gracey

Trevor Arthur Lloyd Davies, physician, occupational physician, civil servant and writer: born 8 April 1909; Resident Assistant Physician, St Thomas' Hospital 1934-36; Medical Officer, Boots Pure Drug Co 1937-53; Professor of Social Medicine, University of Malaya 1953-61; Senior Medical Inspector of Factories, Ministry of Labour and Department of Employment and Productivity 1961-70; Chief Medical Adviser, Department of Employment 1970-73; Queen's Honorary Physician 1968-71; married 1936 Joan Keily (died 1972; one daughter), 1975 Margaret Gracey; died Elmdon, Essex 1 May 1998.