Hyman Davies

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 28 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:513
  1. Alan Silman

    Hyman Davies was a lifelong peace activist and campaigner against poverty and deprivation stimulated by his continuing passion to improve the health and lives of those he cared for.

    Being the youngest of four children and growing up in the challenging economic circumstances of the inner city between the first and second world wars developed his interest in learning both arts and sciences. After graduating from Manchester towards the end of the second world war, his initial posts were in tropical medicine, and he served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in the British Army in India and then Nigeria until 1947.

    On being demobbed, he entered general practice in Salford, becoming rapidly aware of the major impact of poor housing on the physical condition of his patients. He joined the Labour party (of which he remained a member to his death) not out of political ambition but as a route to seek societal change which would improve the health of those around him. He achieved notoriety by leading a march, as part of a (successful) campaign for better flood protection for the residents of Salford, drawing criticism from his medical colleagues, but as he said in his memoirs “it was simply a method of health promotion” given the respiratory effects he had witnessed of the damp housing in his patients.

    His other major passion was his opposition to nuclear weapons, and he was a founding member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW). He could not conceive that medical practitioners could be anything other than active campaigners as the threat from nuclear weapons presented the greatest threat to health. He even drew the ire of Margaret Thatcher for having complained that she had not sent a message of support for the 1985 meeting of the IPPNW; this drew a written response that he should consider her view that the organisation was a front for Soviet propaganda.

    Hyman was a gentle, caring, and, above all, self critical physician, and in his latter years his cases were a regular feature as fillers in the BMJ, the last published in 2006 on an almost missed myocardial infarction in the midst of a flu epidemic. He was keen to recall the lessons accumulated in several years of dedicated practice and to emphasise that he never stopped learning.


    • Former general practitioner Salford, Greater Manchester (b 1918; q Manchester 1943; FRCGP), died from heart failure on 19 November 2007.

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