Year James Spence Medal awarded: 1991
John Davis qualified with a London University Gold Medal and, after serving in the army in Germany, returned to St Mary’s to begin his paediatric training. He gained experience in Paddington Green Children's Hospital (where he was influenced by Donald Winnicott), in Boston and in the community around St Mary’s as part of the hospital’s Home Care Scheme.
John began his research career as a Nuffield Research Fellow in Oxford, and made major contributions to newborn physiology, particularly to the understanding of apnoea in the neonatal period. While a senior lecturer and reader at the Hammersmith Hospital, he was a motivator of the early development of neonatal intensive care.
He was not only concerned with the physical, but also with the ethical issues facing families and staff. While he was Professor of Child Health in Manchester and later Foundation Professor of Paediatrics in Cambridge, he continued to write for journals and newspapers about science and ethics.
Professor Davis made an impact on the BPA; he was Honorary Assistant Secretary, Secretary of the Academic Board and Board's Chairman. He was an excellent speaker and would captivate audiences when giving lectures. One of his biggest contributions to science was his editorship with John Dobbing of ‘The Scientific Foundations of Paediatrics’.