Cool heads were not easy to find last week through the tragedy of the Paddington rail crash - until, that is, the appointment of Sir David Davies to head the inquiry on advanced automatic train protection.
President of the Royal Academy of Engineering since 1996, he is described as "a secure thinker" with "an excellent range of knowledge" and "a classic engineer, who speaks when he has something to say".
Born in Cardiff in 1935, Sir David studied electrical engineering at the University of Birmingham for a first degree then a PhD. From 1961 to 1967, he lectured there, and worked part time as honorary senior principal scientific officer at the Royal Radar Establishment, Malvern. In 1967, he became assistant director of research at the British Railways Board, Derby, and professor of electrical engineering at University College London three years later. He was dean and vice-provost of UCL, and became vice-chancellor at Loughborough University of Technology in 1988. He joined the ministry of defence as chief scientific adviser in 1993 and received a knighthood a year later. A council member of various bodies, including, at one time, the Royal Society, Sir David has also served on government and private sector advisory boards. He is a non-executive chairman of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and a non-executive director of ERA Technology.
His publications include articles on radar, antennae and aspects of fibre optics and he has been awarded both the Rank prize for optoelectronics and the Faraday Medal of the Institute of Electrical Engineers. Four years ago, he chaired a review of research and development in the railway industry on behalf of the Department of Transport. Among its recommendations for further research was the problem of trains going through red danger signals.
Soapbox, page 18 People is edited by Harriet Swain and researched by Lynne Williams.
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