Davidson Nicol: The First African Graduate With First Class Honors From The University Of Cambridge

Davidson Sylvester Hector Willoughby Nicol was a Sierra Leonean academic, professor, historian, diplomat, physician, writer and poet. Within his illustrious lifetime, his dedication and passionate commitments in contributing to enhancing national and international development were untiring.

Davidson Nicol was born on 14th December 1924, in the creole setting of Bathurst, Sierra Leone. He took his first step into the field of academia when he enrolled for teaching at the Prince Of Wales School in Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone. With the accomplishment of a scholarship, he studied at Christ’s College, Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. It was there he graduated with an astonishing first-class honours degree from the said university, making him the first African to attain such a tremendous feat. Davidson Nicol is also the first African elected as a fellow of a college of Cambridge University. Establishing his tentacles in the domain of medicine, he got a medical degree from London Hospital Medical College.

He spent some years serving as a lecturer at the Ibadan University Medical School, partly focusing his attention on research targeting topical malnutrition, before returning to his alma mater Cambridge in 1954. In 1957, during his time at Christ’s College, under the tutelage of the esteemed scientist Frederick Sanger, he carried out research on Insulin. Thus, Davidson Nicol contributed to medical science when he became the first individual to analyze the breakdown of insulin in the human body. Thankfully, this discovery potentially served as a quantum leap for the treatment of diabetes. He published two notable books on the topic, The Mechanism of Action of Insulin and The Structure of Human Insulin, both in 1960.

He had been working for the Sierra Leonean government in 1958 as a pathologist.

The 1960s was a busy period for Davidson Nicol in the field of academia. He served as the first native principal of Fourah Bay College in Freetown for eight years. He also served as a member of the Public Service Commission until 1968. He acted first as the chairman from 1964 to 1968, then as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sierra Leone for two years (1966-1968).

In 1968, Davidson Nicol became the permanent representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations, which he served until 1971. He acted as High Commissioner to the United Kingdom for just a year. He immediately served on the international scene as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, discharging his duties and responsibilities until 1982. He was head of the United Nations Institute For Training and Research (UNITAR). He was also the Ambassador of Sierra Leone to Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, all on different appointment tenures or periods.

Nicol is the first Sierra Leonean to serve as President of the United Nations Security Council in September 1970.

Davidson Nicol was married to Marjorie Esme who hails from Trinidad. The couple had five children together. He retired at the age of 67 in 1991. He also authored short stories, also lending his pen to poetry, music, and literature.

With legacies unperturbed, and a daring but influential persona stamped within the memories of man, he passed away on the 20th September 1994, aged 70.

Author: Delvid Stanley-Coker

Delvid Stanley-Coker is a dedicated writer and editor for The African Dream. His passion and desire to publicize the appreciable department of Africa and voice out the prevalent ills of society have adequately contributed to the promulgation of stories of different sorts. Email: stanleycokerdelvid@gmail.com. WhatsApp: +23276737886 Facebook: Delvid Stanley-Coker.