Norman Davidson (biochemist)

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Professor Norman Davidson
Born James Norman Davidson
(1911-03-05)5 March 1911
Died 11 September 1972(1972-09-11) (aged 61)
Fields Biochemistry
Institutions University of Aberdeen
University of St Andrews[1]
University of Glasgow
Alma mater University of Edinburgh[1]
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society[1]

James Norman Davidson CBE PRSE FRS (5 March 1911 – 11 September 1972) was a Scottish biochemist, pioneer molecular biologist and textbook author. The Davidson Building at Glasgow University is named after him.[2]


He was the only child of James Davidson FRSE FSA (1873-1956) a lawyer, Treasurer of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, originally from Aberdeenshire, and his wife, Wilhelmina Ibberson Foote. He was born in Edinburgh on 5 March 1911 and lived in the family home of 30 Bruntsfield Gardens in the south of the city.[3] He was educated locally, at George Watson's College, where he was dux.[4][5]

He then studied Medicine and Organic Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh graduating BSc degree in 1934,[1] MB ChB in 1937, MD in 1939 and an honorary DSc in 1945.

In 1937/38 he studied under Otto Heinrich Warburg in Berlin-Dahlem, in the turbulent pre-war days. He returned to Scotland in autumn of 1938 to begin lecturing in Biochemistry at St Andrews University. From 1940 to 45 he was Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry at Aberdeen University.[5]

In 1941 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were James P Kendall, Ernest Cruickshank, Robert Campbell Garry, and Anderson Gray M'Kendrick.[4] He was Secretary to the society 1949-1954, Vice President 1955-58 and served two terms as President from 1958–59 and 1964-67.[6]

Davidson was Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Glasgow from 1947 to 1972. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1967.

He died of a heart attack in Bearsden in Glasgow on 11 September 1972.[7]


  • The Biochemistry of Nucleic Acids (1950)


In 1938 he married Morag McLeod (now Dr Morag Davidson). Their children included Rona McLeod MacKie FRSE (b.1940) and Ailsa Morag Campbell FRSE (b.1943).[4]