Philip W. Davies

[ Age 92 ] The Johns Hopkins professor of medicine enjoyed music, woodworking.

November 26, 2007|By Arin Gencer | Arin Gencer,Sun Reporter

Philip W. Davies, a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine with a passion for music and woodworking, died of kidney failure Tuesday at the Presbyterian Home of Maryland in Towson. He was 92.

Born in Wauwatosa, Wis., he grew up in Oregon and Oak Park, Ill. He earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago in 1937, said his daughter, Margery W. Davies of Cambridge, Mass.

He worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York in the late 1930s. He earned a doctorate in biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania in the mid-1940s, and went on to work at a foundation for biochemical and biophysical research associated with the school.

When Detlev W. Bronk became president of Johns Hopkins in 1949, Dr. Davies was one of several individuals he brought along from the foundation, said Dr. Vernon B. Mountcastle, a colleague and friend.

Dr. Davies served on the faculty in the Department of Biophysics at Hopkins' Homewood campus, then joined the department of physiology at the School of Medicine, where he also taught classes.

There he participated in a research group headed by then-director of physiology Philip Bard, which focused on cell membranes.

Dr. Davies had carried on his own field of study in muscle physiology, said Dr. Mountcastle, who headed the department after Dr. Bard and described Dr. Davies as "a delightful man."

"We were all very fond of him," Dr. Mountcastle said.

As part of a team with Dr. Mountcastle, Dr. Davies devised a way to record from the cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that coordinates sensory and motor information.

"He made a great contribution to those studies," Dr. Mountcastle said.

Dr. Davies retired from Johns Hopkins in 1980.

Music and woodworking were among Dr. Davies' passions outside the lab and classroom. Ms. Davies described her father as an accomplished pianist and organist who played in his own father's church in his youth. But as an adult, he played at home, she said, spending many hours on both instruments. Bach, Beethoven and Chopin were among his favorite composers.

At times, his musical interests dovetailed with his other pastime: Dr. Davies built a wooden pipe organ from scratch, along with a number of other functional pieces over the years. "He was very meticulous and built beautiful pieces out of wood," Ms. Davies said.

Such creations included a small doll crib he made for one of her children, as well as wooden trays and mailboxes he designed.

Dr. Davies met his future wife, Ruth Colvin Davies, at a church social gathering in Philadelphia in the early 1940s. They married on Christmas Eve 1943. Last year, the couple moved to the Presbyterian Home of Maryland, a continuing-care retirement community, after having lived in Idlewylde since 1952.

A service will be held at 2 p.m. Jan. 19 at Roland Park Presbyterian Church, 4801 Roland Ave.

In addition to his wife of 63 years and daughter, he is survived by a son, James C. Davies of Yokohama, Japan; a brother, James C. Davies of Eugene, Ore.; a sister, Priscilla Higgins of Wisconsin; six grandchildren; and two great-grandsons. Another son, Douglas N. Davies, died in 2000.

arin.gencer@baltsun.com

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