A reflection from the nephew of the late Professor George Davidson

George Davidson

Jeff Gallagher reached out to us to share the remarkable story of his uncle and former LSHTM professor – later an inspiration for Jeff’s poetry. George Davidson was also the first recipient of the George Macdonald Medal in 1972. Jeff is a poet and playwright and has written a poem in George’s honour, to mark 50 years since the inception of the award.

In his own words, Jeff tells us:

George was involved in the 1940s in early trials of residual spraying to counteract malaria in Sierra Leone, DRC Congo, Tanzania and Kenya. In the early 1950s DDT and dieldrin were being used as insecticides but the anopheles Gambia species seemed to be resistant, especially to dieldrin. He worked closely with a Dr. Paterson on studying a possible genetic basis for the dieldrin resistance. This was quite a logistical exercise as George was in London and Paterson in Southern Africa and they had to send and receive mosquito eggs through the post! 

Their collaboration continued through the 1960s and early 70s. George's paper on the Anopheles Gambiae Complex is held on the WHO database. He and Paterson were pretty much responsible for the introduction of genetic methods in the study of malaria entomology. As a result of his research and his sustained commitment to finding ways to combat malaria through the control of insect populations, George became the first recipient of the Macdonald Medal in 1972.

I understand someone called Alistair Miles has submitted a PH.D. thesis on this subject in which he makes detailed reference to the work carried out by (George) Davidson and Paterson. His father Simon Miles worked with George - I assume at the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine - during the 70s and 80s.

George was married to my aunt Edna Hall in (I think) 1949. They returned to Kenya for a holiday in 1952 and I believe were staying at the Treetops at the same time as HM Queen Elizabeth when she received news of her accession! They had one child, my cousin Jane, who sadly died of leukaemia at the age of 14. Edna - my mother's sister - died in 1988 and George himself in 1997. All three are laid to rest at Christ Church, Woodford, Cheshire.

The poem was inspired by an image of George found on the Internet and by what I previously knew of his work.