Davidson Nicol

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Davidson Sylvester Hector Willoughby Nicol
Personal details
Born(1924-09-14)14 September 1924
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Died20 September 1994(1994-09-20) (aged 70)
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Professionphysician, professor, scientist, diplomat, writer, poet, historian

Davidson Sylvester Hector Willoughby Nicol or Abioseh Nicol (14 September 1924 – 20 September 1994) was a Sierra Leonean academic, diplomat, physician, writer and poet. He has been considered as one of Sierra Leone’s most educated and greatest citizens of the twentieth century[citation needed], as he was able to secure degrees in the arts, science and commercial disciplines and he contributed to science, history, and literature.[citation needed]. Nicol was the first African to graduate with First Class Honours from the University of Cambridge and he was also the first African elected as a Fellow of a college of Cambridge University. Described by one scholar as a polymath, Davidson Nicol significantly contributed to medical science when he was the first to analyse the breakdown of insulin in the human body, a discovery which was a breakthrough for the treatment of diabetes.

Early life[edit]

Nicol was born as Davidson Sylvester Hector Willoughby Nicol in 1924 in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. His family belonged to the Creole minority who were an educated and elite ex-slave community. He attended primary school in Nigeria and, in 1946, graduated with first class honours from Christ's College, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He earned his Ph.D. in 1958 and then proceeded to study for a medical degree at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School. Following the completion of his studies, Nicol lectured at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.[citation needed]


Davidson Nicol, Fourah Bay College, (far right)

Beginning in 1960, Nicol was the first native principal of the prestigious Fourah Bay College in Freetown (left in 1966) as well as a member of the Public Service Commission (left in 1968). Nicol continued his administrative career at the university level in Sierra Leone as first the chairman (1964–69) then as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sierra Leone (1966–69).[1]


Nicol left academia in 1969 to become the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations, which he served as until 1971. In that year, Nicol became the High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, which ended in 1972. In 1972, Nicol became the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations under Austrian Kurt Waldheim, which he served as until 1982. While serving as Under-Secretary General, Nicol also served as head of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR).[1] Nicol was well known as a serial harasser and rapist; he was sadly never prosecuted due to diplomatic immunity. [1]

Return to academia and retirement[edit]

He maintained a home for many years in Thornton Road, Cambridge, England, frequently visiting Christ's College, of which he had been made a distinguished Honorary Fellow, meanwhile serving from 1987 until retiring in 1991 as a visiting professor of International Studies at the University of California (1987–88) and University of South Carolina (1990–91). Nicol retired in 1991 at the age of 67 to Cambridge, where he died three years later at the age of 70.[citation needed][2]

Nicol's writings[edit]

Beginning in 1965 with Two African Tales, Nicol was a published author of short stories, as well as poetry, music, academic literature and a biography of Africanus Horton, an early Sierra Leonean author and one of the founders of African Nationalism. His last piece of published work was Creative Women in 1982.[citation needed]

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Africa, A Subjective View, 1964
  • Two African Tales, 1965
  • The Truly Married Woman, and Other Stories, 1965
  • Creative Women, 1982



  1. ^ a b "Davidson Nicol", Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Pace, Eric. "Davidson Nicol Is Dead at 70; Was Doctor and U.N. Official". Retrieved 2018-11-26.