Jean-Baptist David was born in the Belgian city of Lier. As a professor he worked together with Jan Frans Willems and was president of the first and second Taelcongres that resulted in the language unity between the Netherlands and Flanders. He was the editor of the first united Dutch dictionnary, that was published in 1864. He also wrote several books on the history of Flanders. He died in 1866 in Leuven.
To his honour, the Davidsfonds was founded in 1875 with the purpose to promote the Flemisch literature, culture and history.