Friday, 25 September 2015


Mary Davies was born on 8th December 1874   Her parents were Sir Robert Henry Davies (1824 – 1902), Governor of the Indian Province of the Punjab from 1871 – 1877, and his wife Mary Frances nee Cautey.

Mary was training to be a bacteriologist at the Pasteur Institute in Neuilly, France when the First World War broke out.  The American Hospital was established at the Pasteur Institute and there Mary worked with Dr. Kenneth Taylor, who was a bacteriologist who qualified at Minnesota University.   Dr Taylor was working on a serum of Quinine Hydrochloride to treat Gas Gangrene, experimenting initially on guinea pigs.  

In October 1915, Mary deliberately injected herself with the bacteria used to infect the guinea pigs and asked Dr. Taylor to treat her.   The treatment was successful and after some days in hospital, Mary was sent home to England to recuperate.  She wrote a treatise suggesting that if the cloth used to manufacture British Army uniforms were treated with Quinine Hydrochloride, the incidences of Gas Gangrene might be reduced.

It is perhaps worth noting here, that the Canadian Army Doctor, artilleryman and poet, John McCrae, commented upon his shock on discovering that the heavy use of manure used to fertilise the fields in Flanders and northern France, contributed to the infection of wounds sustained by soldiers on the battle fields of the Western Front in the First World War.

Mary, a member of the Bath Club in London, died in Cannes on 31st March 1928.

With many thanks to Geoff Harrison and other friends who sent me links to articles about Mary, and to ‘The Times’ for re-printing the story they ran about Mary's exploit from their edition of September 23rd 1915 in their 23rd September 2015 edition.  

Geoff also found an amazing cartoon which illustrates this story from the St. Petersburg Times of 9th August 1931 (I imagine that would be St. Petersburg in Florida...)  I am still hoping to find a photograph of Katherine Mary Geraldine Davies - can anyone help please?


GRAVES, Diane. "A Crown of Live The World of John McCrae" (Spellmount Ltd., Staplehurst, Kent, 1997)