Dictionary of Welsh Biography

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

DAVIES , WILLIAM ( 1899 - 1968 ) botanist and grassland specialist ;

b. 20 Apr. 1899 in Norman Rd. , London , eldest son of William and Margaret Davies , both of farming families from north Cards. He was educated in Sloane School , London , and after service in the army in 1917-18 he entered the University College of Wales , Aberystwyth , and graduated with first-class honours in botany in 1923 . He was appointed to the staff of the Welsh Plant Breeding Station the same year, the beginning of the long and productive collaboration between him and R.G. Stapledon (see below) . He was a plant geneticist at Palmerston North , New Zealand , 1929-31 , and the choice of varieties to be developed for the grassland of that country was based on his work there. He visited Australia and had an opportunity to spend a year there in 1932-33 . Between 1933 and 1940 he was head of the department of grassland agronomy at the Welsh Plant Breeding Station . He did not con- fine himself to experimental work, but made a survey of the grassland and waste lands of Wales which was published in A survey of the agricultural and waste lands of Wales in 1937 , under the editorship of R.G. Stapledon and with the financial help of David Lloyd George (see below) . Between Nov. 1936 and Mar. 1938 he made a detailed survey of the grassland of the Falkland Islands and his report, The grasslands of the Falkland Islands , was published in 1939 . During 1938 and 1939 he and his assistants surveyed and carefully mapped the grassland of England . This survey was used as a guide in the campaign for ploughing grassland during World War II to grow more corn and other arable crops. This survey intensified his belief in a policy of ploughing up permanent grassland and reseeding it as leys which would be much more productive. This is when Ley farming ( 1941 ) was written in conjunction with R.G. Stapledon . Another consequence of the survey was the establishment of the Grassland Improvement Station in 1940 near Stratford-upon-Avon , with R.G. Stapledon as director and William Davies as assistant director . He was appointed director on the retirement of Stapledon in 1945 , and he continued in that post after the work was moved in 1949 to a new centre near Hurley , in the Thames valley , namely the Grassland Research Institute . He remained there until he retired in 1964 . He published very many articles in his own field, but his most important work is The grass crop ( 1952 ), in a volume which gathers his studies, thoughts and investigations regarding grassland in every part of the world during the preceding quarter of a century. He travelled widely to advise governments and international societies on research matters and developments in grassland, and he played a leading part in founding the British Grassland Society in 1945 . He was its president on two occasions and an honorary fellow of the society for life. He was awarded the degrees of M.Sc. ( 1925 ) and D.Sc. ( 1945 ) of the University of Wales and was awarded an honorary D.Sc. degree by the University of New Zealand in 1956 . He was honoured with the C.B.E. in 1964 , and was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society of England , and honorary life president of the European Grassland Federation .

He m. in 1928 Alice Muriel Lewis and they had one son. Davies d. 28 July, 1968 , and was buried in the churchyard of Llanfihangel Genau'r Glyn, Cards.


  • Personal knowledge;
  • Who was who? ;
  • Journal of the British Grassland Society 1968 , 265-7.


Llywelyn Phillips (1914-81), Aberystwyth

Published date: 2001