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DAVIS, Peter Hadland

Dates: 18.vi.1918--5.iii.1992
Abbreviation: P.H.Davis

Photo povided by courtesy of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Peter Davis spent most of the war years in the East Mediterranean where he was employed by the security service (screening mail), enabling him to gain an extensive knowledge of the flora. He established contact with Sir William Wright Smith at the University of Edinburgh, and this resulted in his going up to read Botany there in 1946. He was awarded First Class Honours. Peter Davis worked while an undergraduate on his Mediterranean plant collections which he had brought with him to Edinburgh and soon involved his fellow undergraduate, Vernon Heywood, in working up the Scrophulariaceae. Amongst which was a new species of Digitalis from Anatolia, D. davisii, the first new species Heywood described. Heywood had developed an interest in Spain and joined forces with Davis in a plant collecting tour of Spain in 1948, sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society. Some specimens of this expedition are present in RNG. Later in 1950 Heywood accompanied Davis on an expedition to Anatolia, but this was to be their last fieldwork together. Heywood went on to Cambridge, Madrid, Liverpool and Reading while Davis remained in Edinburgh and joined the staff of the University Botany Department, to become Professor of Taxonomic Botany (1979?85). Davis?s energies were concentrated on his magnum opus, The Flora of Turkey, begun in 1959 (Davis, 1965?1988). Although most of his collecting was in Turkey, he decided to collect in all countries around the Mediterranean Sea. The possibility of Reading becoming involved in a British Flora of Morocco project resulted in Heywood purchasing for RNG a set of some 4000 Davis duplicates from North Africa. Few other Davis specimens, with the exception of a few hundred from Sicily and the Middle East, exist in RNG. Davis (1961) described his collecting techniques (which seem to be heavily biased towards small herbs) in a still valuable practical paper. He has been accused of being a lawn-mower collector, continually collecting large numbers of gatherings with the same common species over and over again. He has also described his collecting expeditions in a series of papers (e.g., Davis, 1969, 1976). Although his path diverged from that of Heywood, they collaborated on the classic text, Principles of Angiosperm Taxonomy (Davis & Heywood, 1963). Davis came to Reading in 1972 to advise on a joint University of Reading/ British Museum (Nat. Hist.) expedition to Morocco and to give a lecture on floristic links between Morocco and the Canary Islands. He took many painful moments to say C-C-Canary Islands in almost every sentence. Davis taught undergraduates and postgraduates with great energy and vigour, being an excellent teacher, aided more than impeded by his stammer, which he used shamelessly for his own pedagogic p-purposes. He was a giant and one of the most colourful figures in plant taxonomy, sadly dieing of Alzheimer?s Disease.

Author of Biography: S.L.Jury

Biographical references: HEYWOOD, V.H., 1994. Obituaries: Peter Hadland Davis (1918-1992). Watsonia, 20: 67-180 (1994).

Selected references:
DAVIS, P.D., 1961. Hints for hard-pressed collectors. Watsonia, 4: 283--289.

DAVIS, P.H. (ed.), 1965--1988. Flora of Turkey and the East Aegean Islands. 10 vols. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

DAVIS, P.D., 1969. Turkish itineraries. IV. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 29: 203-209.

DAVIS, P.D., 1976. North African and other itineraries 1961-1975. Notes from the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 35: 121-130.

DAVIS, P.H. & HEYWOOD, V.H., 1963. Principles of Angiosperm Taxonomy. London: Oliver & Boyd.

Added: January 20th 2004

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