John Frank Davidson

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John Frank Davidson
Born 7 February 1926
Nationality United Kingdom
Fields Chemical engineering
Institutions University of Cambridge
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Notable awards Royal Medal (1999)

John Frank Davidson FRS FREng[1] FIChemE (born 7 February 1926[2]) is a British chemical engineer and former Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge. He is regarded as the founding father of the Fluidization in Chemical Engineering.

Early life[edit]

John Frank Davidson was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, the industrial centre of the county of Northumberland. His school years (1937–1944) fell on severe days of World War II. In 1944, he entered the University of Cambridge, with which all his further life has been associated. After receiving the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1947, Davidson joined Rolls-Royce in Derby, where he served two and a half years in the Mechanical Development Department. Having returned in 1950 to Cambridge, he became a graduate student in the Engineering Department (1950–1952). At the end of 1952, he passed to the recently founded Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Cambridge. In that period, Davidson began to theoretically study the motion of large gas bubbles in liquids and wrote his still widely cited works on the mass transfer between a bubble and a liquid flowing past it. However, what is more important, these studies stimulated him to carry out a number of pioneering works on fluidization, which were generalized in his book Fluidised Particles(1963), written with David Harrison (later, this book was translated into Russian). This was one of the first books on fluidization, and it generated keen interest.


Davidson’s works made an important contribution to the development of the hydrodynamics of a circulating fluidized bed and the heat transfer in a fluidized bed and also to the creation and implementation of methods for lignite combustion in a fluidized bed. Davidson received the degree of PhD in 1953 and the degree of Doctor of Science in 1968 at the University of Cambridge. In 1974, for works on two-phase flows and, first of all, for achievements in fluidization, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in chemical engineering (He elected as a Vice President, Royal Society of London, 1989). In 1974–1975, he was a member of the Court of Enquiry for the Flixborough disaster.

Davidson’s research work was always closely related to his pedagogical activities. He started as a university demonstrator in chemical engineering (1950) and then was a university lecturer (1954), a reader in chemical engineering (1964), and a professor (1975). In 1975–1993, Davidson headed the Department of Chemical Engineering of the University of Cambridge and did much for the development of the department, updating of the curriculum, and strengthening of relations with industry. In 1978–1993, he bore the title of Shell Professor of Chemical Engineering since Shell was an important sponsor of the foundation of the department.

Indissoluble are the ties of Davidson’s life and activities with Trinity College, one of the oldest Cambridge colleges, ties lasting from 1949 to the present time. In 1957, he became the College’s steward responsible for the entire household, including organization of receptions of the royal family. The most difficult challenge in this period was the reconstruction of the Old Kitchen, built in 1605. This reconstruction lasted several years in the early 1960s. In 1992–1996, Davidson was vice master of Trinity College.

In 1970–1971, Davidson was president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers; he is a Foreign Associate of the US National Academy of Engineering (1976), Docteur Honoris Causa de l’Institut National Polytechnique de Toulouse (1979), an Honorary Doctor of Science of the University of Aston (1989), and a Foreign Fellow of the Indian National Science Academy (1991). He has the Kurnakov Memorial Medal given by the Kurnakov Institute of General and Inorganic Chemistry of the USSR Academy of Sciences (1991) and was elected a foreign member of the Russian Engineering Academy (1998). In 1999, Davidson was awarded the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London.

Davidson is a frequent participant at and guest of Mendeleev congresses, at which he has delivered plenary lectures. At the present time, he continues active research work at the Department of Chemical Engineering of Cambridge University since his retirement in 1992.

Personal life[edit]

He married Susanne Hedwig Ostberg in 1948. They have a son and a daughter.


He was awarded a Royal Medal in 1999 for his chemical engineering work, and has been a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1974.[3] He was president of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) from 1970-71. Vice president of the Royal Society in 1989. He was appointed a Fellow[1] of the Royal Academy of Engineering.[1]


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