David Maurice Denison

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 02 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3471
  1. Anthony Newman Taylor

David Maurice Denison, who died aged 80 after a long illness on 8 February this year, was one of the outstanding aviation physiologists of his generation. With other scientists at Farnborough, he made enormous contributions to civilian and manned flight safety. His research spanned explaining the Apollo 1 disaster to understanding why diving mammals do not get the bends. He achieved national recognition for his expert evidence in the Billie-Jo Jenkins murder case with his findings from several years of personal research, which provided sufficient doubt to overturn the original conviction.

He had a truly original mind with a ceaseless curiosity to understand. He took endless care to teach his students to think for themselves and to challenge scientific orthodoxy. It is a tribute to his teaching that so many of those who worked with him have gone on to have very successful medical and academic careers. He inspired great admiration and affection in those who knew and worked with him, and he had a great capacity for friendship. He was a kind, generous man, always thoughtful of others.

David was born one of identical twins, in 1933 at Hammersmith Hospital, to where he would return in the late 1960s to work with Moran Campbell. By his own admission, his school career was not a great success. He left without A levels, having in one report been declared unfit for higher education, and started work as a junior analyst in Hounslow for Parke Davis, manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and toothpaste, before working as a laboratory technician at Ashford Hospital. He was called up for national service in January 1953, joining the Royal Artillery and later the Royal Army Medical Corps.

After national service he applied to a number of medical schools, having studied biological sciences and chemistry at night school while …

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