Professor John Davidson receiving his award from Lord John Browne, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, at the dinner on 7 June 2010
Professor John Davidson from the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology and Fellow of Trinity College has been awarded by the Royal Academy of Engineering the 2010 Prince Philip medal for sustained excellence in engineering. This medal is one of the highest that the academy awards and was given in recognition to John's lifetime contribution to Chemical Engineering. For over fifty years Professor John Davidson has made consistent and outstanding contributions to the academic, professional and industrial Chemical Engineering community. He is universally recognized by leading Chemical Engineers as being one of the highest intellects in the field and he has used this intellect to, solve complex chemical engineering problems, to help others solve problems and to be directly involved in a number of important commercial projects.
John was head of Department in Chemical Engineering at Cambridge for a long time between 1975-1993 and during this period he had a significant influence on Chemical Engineering both at Cambridge and elsewhere. Many of his students went on in turn to become head of departments within the UK and also abroad, particularly in the Commonwealth Countries of India and Australia. He was a past President of the IChemE and also a member of the notorious Flixborough report committee.
Many of Davidson's students also went to work with ICI and over the years, both John and his past students made significant contributions to ICI technologies particularly in the area of fluidized bed reactor technology and developing the Pruteen biofermentation reactors.
At all stages John's brilliant academic brain would devise simple mathematical solutions to complex chemical engineering problems. Whilst during the 70s and 80s others were developing sophisticated and complex numerical approaches to attack difficult areas of science and technology, John would quietly create mathematical models of astonishing simplicity, but immense elegance that invariably worked at a fraction of the manpower input and also enabled people to readily understand the physics and chemistry of the problem.
There can be few Engineers alive today with such physical and chemical insight coupled with a no nonsense pragmatic approach which is the trademark of John's style. He has inspired many and continues to do so by being a regular member within the Department, assisting staff and students alike in their quest to model chemical engineering problems. This, at an age of 84, is a remarkable achievement in its own right. He also still cycles to the department using the same bicycle he has had throughout his academic career at Cambridge; another remarkable fact!