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David F Williams, PhD, DSc, FREng, FLSW - Author, Scientist & Consultant


David F Williams

Author, Scientist & Consultant


I am a David Williams, one of many Welshmen with that name, meaning it is difficult to make your mark in life. Even more so by being born towards the end of World War II, with all the British post-war deprivations that this entailed. Early years are a blur, as my parents moved around Wales, trying to make a living, finding first the beautiful but poverty-ridden town of Llandrindod Wells in Radnorshire, then moving to a small village outside of Bristol, just over the border in South-west England. Luckily for me, the British grammar school system still existed, and I passed the now-derided ‘Eleven-Plus’ exam and entered Thornbury Grammar School in 1955. Memories of those years still largely escape me, although the educational level, and the rugby, were outstanding, enabling me to be accepted into the University of Birmingham, where I studied in the world-famous School of Metallurgy, receiving bachelors and doctorate degrees by 1968.

A 50-Year Academic Odyssey

During the third-year of my Ph.D. work, I attended a lecture at the Birmingham Metallurgical Association given by an orthopaedic surgeon, who discussed the uses of metallic hardware in bone fracture repair. Not being sure what to do with my education, I asked him if there was any role for a metallurgist / materials scientist in this area. His reply was not too encouraging, but he suggested that I contact the medical school in Liverpool, who were looking for ‘someone with an interest in biomechanics’. I went up to Liverpool, was interviewed on the spot, and so began a 40-year journey through that University; I was an Assistant Lecturer in Orthopaedic Surgery (Biomechanics), then Lecturer in Biomaterials Science (Biomechanics, then Dentistry) and Senior Lecturer. I was awarded a Personal Professorship in 1984 and given permission to establish the Institute of Medical and Dental Bioengineering in the Faculty of Medicine, which then became the Department of Clinical Engineering. I guess that I was fortunate to be able to achieve an academic position so young, without having to go through the extensive post-doctoral merry-go-round that exists today and with no record of publications or grants, but it was no sinecure, and Liverpool could be an isolated place for the stranger, a lone Welsh metallurgist, now ‘medical engineer’.

Embracing New Horizons

In the UK, it was common practice for academics to retire at the age of 65; by 2008, when I had been in Liverpool for 40 years, I was approaching that magic point. Although by no means ready to retire, I felt that neither I nor the University could gain much by my continued presence and so I was looking for something new. I was already in discussion with Professor Peter Zilla, the Chris Barnard Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, about establishing a company aimed at developing technologies to treat young adults dying from rheumatic heart disease (visit my Strait Access Technologies Page to learn more). Then I received a call from Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute of Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina, USA, asking if I would like to be appointed a Professor of Biomaterials in his institute. To cut a long story short, I was able to negotiate these two opportunities in parallel, with total transparency and no conflicts of interest. I left Liverpool, with pride and satisfaction and the title of Emeritus Professor, setting off for North Carolina and South Africa.

Navigating Unconventional Paths

As will be obvious, this particular David Williams was, at the beginning of the 21st century, a successful academic, with activities ranging across research, teaching, writing, consulting and administration, and with a reasonable reputation in much of the world. However, it wasn’t a classical academic journey. In the 1960’s, Liverpool was neither an attractive nor prosperous city, (the Beatles had already left by the time I arrived). nor was its university; it did have classic architectural Victoria Building at its center, which gave rise to the descriptor of Redbrick University for seats of learning in Britain’s industrial cities but was located in a very poor urban environment. The University was very conservative, and it was very hard going for the sole engineer to become accepted in the Medical School. So, I developed a strategy of seizing every opportunity that appeared remotely close to my trajectory, never saying ‘no’ unless it was so obviously the wrong thing to do. I brought people to Liverpool, and took Liverpool to the people, so to speak, serving on committees in London, speaking at conferences across Europe, the USA, India and Australia, organizing conferences, editing books and journals, and so on.

Milestones, Achievements and Contributions

There were several major milestones in that career. I published a textbook on biomaterials science in 1973, Williams & Roaf, Implants in Surgery, one of the first of its kind. I spent a year at Clemson University in South Carolina, as a Senior Fulbright Scholar, initiating my reputation in the USA. In Liverpool, I established a master’s degree in medical engineering, which attracted students from many different parts of the world and, with European Commission funding, organized and delivered short courses on biomaterials sciences in over 15 countries. I first went to India in the early 1980s, teaching about medical devices and their commercialization. I started to receive some awards, ultimately two of the top global awards, the Founders Award of the US Society for Biomaterials and the Acta Biomaterialia Gold Medal. In Europe, I was selected to be a member of several important scientific committees of the European Commission, writing several key opinions on risk management and the safety of medical technologies. I was appointed to many visiting and senior advisory professorships across Asia and Australia, including the top ranking universities of Tsinghua in Beijing, Shanghai Jiao Tong, Wuhan, Szechuan, Taipei Medical and New South Wales. For several years I was the global President of TERMIS the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine International Society.

Leadership, Recognition and Contributions

I was also chosen to be the Editor-in-Chief of the journal, Biomaterials; with my wife, Peggy O’Donnell as Managing Editor, we took this journal to the very highest levels, being in the top 100 scientific journals globally. My consulting / expert witness career started around this time, with appearances in courts, especially but not exclusively, in the US, giving evidence about risks with breast implants, hip replacements, heart valves and other implantable devices. On the research front, I headed a large consortium of academic and industrial organizations that received major funding from the EU Framework Programme on Tissue Engineering (STEPS), and, in collaboration with the University of Manchester, directed a collaborative UK government funded Centre for Tissue Engineering. In the University of Liverpool, I was offered the position of Academic Pro-Vice Chancellor, equivalent to Vice Provost, which I held from 1997 to 2001. In 1999 I was very proud to be elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering of the UK, the professional academy of the top 2,000 engineers, of all types, in the country. Even better, in 2022 I was elected a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales, the highly selective and foremost intellectual society of my own country, being one of very few Welshmen to be so honored while living outside of the country.

Diverse Literary Endeavors

My CV provides details of this career. In recent years I have concentrated more on writing than traveling. This includes:

It also includes poetry; I do not claim to be a Celtic master of poetry but have been inspired, over many years, by the words of Welsh and Irish poets, such as, of course, Dylan Thomas, William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney. I started writing poetry some 20 years ago, and self-published my first book A Decade of Transition in Cape Town in 2015; I should add that the title refers to a transition between scientific and literary writing and has nothing to do with the current emphasis on gender!

Exploring My Diverse Journey

a Half-Century
of Engagements

This website reflects the variety of activities that I have been involved with over more than half a century, and, in many areas, continue to do so. The reasons why I have decided to present these now, and not before, are based upon perceived conflicts of interest. Whilst holding professorial positions in two major universities, and positions of responsibility in many spheres, it seemed sensible, and indeed ethically correct, to avoid personalizing my work in a very public forum. Apart from my position as Chairman of Strait Access Technologies in South Africa, I hold no positions where conflicts could arise, so I consider myself perfectly at liberty to expose myself, as it were, in this way, hopefully in an informative, educational and interesting manner.

Creativity in Academia and Beyond

The five sections of my website reflect the varying roles I have played throughout my life.

Morgan & Masterson Consulting: Guiding Organizations and Sharing Expertise

Central to my professional career are the areas of advice that I give to organizations and consulting clients and the reports and opinions that I have written and occasionally spoken about. This activity is framed within the work of our consulting company, Morgan & Masterson, named after my mother’s maiden name ‘Morgan’ and that of Peggy’s mother ‘Masterson’, and includes:

Science: Reports, Opinions and Contributions

Reconstructing the Body: The Science, Spirituality and Culture - Unpublished Insights, a Comprehensive Exploration

Although I provide links to some of my major publications, one of the five sections of this site concerns a treatise that I have not published. There are two aspects of this inclusions that require explanation. The first, as I pointed out in the Home Page, publishing is not what it used to be; as with many industries, markets have been captured by increasingly large monoliths, where the benefits are shareholders and certainly not the authors, and probably not the majority of readers. My treatise, which I do not call a book, is lengthy and multi-disciplinary, and highly unlikely to attract any major publisher. So I have decided to ‘publish’ it here, without cost to any reader. The second aspect is the material that is covered; the title is Reconstructing the Body: The Science, Spirituality and Culture. I cover all scientific and technical aspects of how and why we reconstruct the body, but also deal with the myriad of spiritual and cultural features, from ethical and religious topics, through economic, equality, regulatory, legal, ownership and other issues. The subject matter is evolving and will be regularly up-dated.

Straight Access Technologies: Exploring Medical Engineering Initiatives in Africa

My current industrial / commercial work involves the South African company, Strait Access Technologies Pty., Ltd, of which I am a Founding Director and Technical Director. The objectives of the company have been the development of medical devices to treat symptomatic rheumatic heart disease patients. This is a barely unrecognized condition in the developed world, but affects millions of individuals in poor countries, especially in sub-Saharan regions, many of these dying very young. They have few options for treatment, which is why our technology platform of low cost devices, potentially usable in unsophisticated clinical facilities, is so important.

Poetry & Art: Verses Beyond Science, Exploring Poetry and Expression

Finally, I write poetry, the rational for which is described in the first part of the section, my philosophy of poetry. In brief, in all of my professional life, whatever I have written or spoken about has had to be truthful and unambiguous. That is as science should be, and I have made every effort to follow these rules. That, however, serves as a constraint on the ability to be expansive in language and format. Some twenty years ago, I was seeking to find an alternative venue for my writing, and poetry was the obvious format. As noted above, I compiled my first collection of poems in 2015, A Decade of Transition. I have been seeking outlets for my poems ever since. This is not straightforward living in the USA, where poetry competitions do not favor the ‘elderly, normal, white, guy’ who has not been published before, and where there is, today, a preference for prose-poetry, which I have discussed in the philosophy section. So, as with the Reconstructing the Body treatise, I have decided to use this website as the vehicle for my collections of poetry. I completed the collection Hiraeth and Ubuntu in 2023, where my Welsh and South African connections underpin a wide spectrum of thoughts. I wrote A History of Medicine in Sonnets during the Covid Pandemic. I complied Cats & Clouds and Other Matters a number of years ago, in which poems are linked to some of my photographs.

Poetry, especially that of Celtic origins, is often better understood when it is spoken rather than read. In our village of Franschhoek in South Africa, Peggy and I initiated a series of poetry readings, for which we invented the term ‘Café Poetique’. This is derived from the type of event know as a Café Scientifique, a British (in spite of appearances) innovation where scientists present their ides to an audience of lay people in bar, coffee bar or other venue. I had given such performances in other parts of the world, but we re-invented it here to have poetry read by different African writers to very receptive audiences. Finally, I have made a few audio transcripts of poems by myself and some eminent Celtic poets, and have compiled a collection of my photography from around the world, including our two homes in Franschhoek and Sheffield Place.


It is inevitable that, in a career lasting more than a half-century, I have interacted with very many people, including some who have significantly influenced my decisions and trajectories. If any of these colleagues find themselves reading these pages, they will know and understand the debt that I owe to them; I hereby acknowledge them, collectively, with gratitude.

While I have largely refrained from mentioning individuals in the various parts of this website, I have to mention the two ladies who have been responsible for its production. Peggy, my wife and colleague, whose name appears often in the text, suggested that I search through my archives and generate the content that we thought might be interesting to many who have known us. That was the easy part. Throughout the few months when we were searching for this material, she coordinated and optimized the compilation. Neither of us, however, had the expertise to design a website, especially one as complex as this. Fortunately, and coincidentally, while working on an un-related project, Peggy was introduced to Tanya Durant, who had that expertise. It only took us a few days to realize just how good she was. Peggy and Tanya spent many hours on Zoom calls between North Carolina and California. Tanya located Welsh fonts and palettes to enrich the visual appeal, and together they have produced the tour de force that you are now witnessing. I owe a great deal to the two of them.

- David F  Williams