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William Broughton Davies
First Nigerian Medical Doctor

William Broughton Davies was the first Nigerian to qualify as a medical doctor in 1858. Although both he and James Beale Africanus Horton received their MRSC in 1858, Davies gained his MD in October of the same year, ten months before Horton.

Early Life and Education
William Davies was born to Yoruba parents in Wellington, a small area in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on October 25, 1833. From the village school in Wellington, he entered Fourah Bay Institute of Freetown in 1850 and trained as a catechist in preparation for a career in the ministry. When the Church Missionary Society wanted three able West African youngsters to be trained in England as doctors for services in the British Army, the choice fell on Davies, Horton, and Samuel Campbell, who, on reaching England, developed severe bronchitis which led to his return to his native Sierra Leone and to an early demise. Davies and Horton would go on to gain the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) of England at King’s College, London in 1858 before completing their medical training in Scotland. Davies attained his Doctor of Medicine (MD) in October 1858 by examination at the University of St Andrews.


Following the successful completion of his medical education in the United Kingdom, Davies was made Staff Assistant Surgeon in the British Army Medical Services. He arrived at Cape Coast in October 1859 and officially commenced work at “the usual salary of 5's. per dime” from December 1, 1859. By contrast with the versatile and prolific Horton, Davies was extremely quiet during his twenty-two years in the British Army and afterward. He passed his retirement in the happy company of his family and died in Sierra Leone on 13 January 1906.

By a good example of his successful career in the British Army, from which he and Horton retired as Surgeon-Majors, Davies vindicated his race, downtrodden by slavery, from the prejudices and low expectations of the time.


  1. A. Adeloye, “Some Early Nigerian Doctors and Their Contribution to Modern Medicine in West Africa” Medical History, 1974, vol. 18, p. 274-293.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information
  3. R. M. Smart, Sub-librarian, University of St. Andrews, Scotland: correspondence of May 17, 1971.
  4. R. Schram, A history of the Nigerian health services, Ibadan University Press, 1971, p. 64.
  5. C. Fyfe, A history of Sierra Leone, London, Oxford University Press, 1962, p. 295 See n.2 See n.1
  6. P.R.O., C.O. 96, 45, Bird to Duke of Newcastle, December 20, 1859.