Sir David (DEN) Davies has been one of the most influential engineers of his generation, advising the government on some of the most sensitive political and defence issues in modern times. He has also made important technical contributions to the development of radar and communications and to higher education policy as Vice Chancellor of a university renowned for its engineering focus.
He is best known for his report to the Deputy Prime Minister on the options available to improve the safety of rail travel in the wake of the disastrous train crash at Ladbroke Grove in October 1999, which killed 31 people and injured many more. Sir David’s reasoned, technically robust report, published in February 2000, provided a voice of calm in the clamour for immediate action. He showed that the cheaper and less technically advanced Train Protection and Warning System that the rail industry was already installing network-wide would actually save more lives over 20 years than the far more expensive Automatic Train Protection systems. These are still essential for high-speed lines but would take at least 10 years to fit to the entire network. His recommendations were endorsed by the ensuing public inquiries. He was later asked to become Chairman of Railway Safety, a new company set up to promote and oversee rail safety issues.
Sir David has pursued his interest in defence since stepping down as Chief Scientific Adviser to the MoD, serving as non-executive Chairman of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency 1998-2000 and later Chairman of the MoD Nuclear Research Advisory Council.
His research work in antenna arrays, radar, signal processing and optical fibre was highly regarded – he won the Rank Prize for optoelectronics in 1984 and the Institution of Electrical Engineers’ Faraday Medal in 1987. He was elected to the Academy in 1979 and to the Royal Society in 1984 and was awarded a CBE in 1996. He was President of the IEE in 1994/5 and has served on the committees of many national bodies, including the BBC Engineering Advisory Committee and the Royal Society’s Science Inquiry Committee.
1935 Born 28 October in Cardiff
1960 Graduates in electrical engineering from the University of Birmingham and stays on to research for a PhD, later joining the staff
1965 Staff exchange as Senior Principal Scientific Officer at the Royal Radar Establishment, Malvern
1967 Assistant Director of Research, British Railways Derby
1971 Professor of Electrical Engineering, University College London, later serving as Vice-Provost
1988 Vice Chancellor, Loughborough University of Technology
1993 Chief Scientific Adviser to the Ministry of Defence
1994 Knighted for services to science
1996 President of the Royal Academy of Engineering
1999 Commissioned to advise the government on Automatic Train Protection
2000 Chairman, Railway Safety Ltd
2002 Chairman of the Hazards Forum