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Alumnus Story: James O. Davis

Jan. 3, 2000

Arts & Science Distinguished Alumni Award, 1993

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Dr. James O. Davis began his career at MU in the department of zoology in Lefevre Hall under the mentorship of Dr. Daniel Mazia, a distinguished cellular physiologist. Jim received his PhD in 1942 and subsequently completed an MD at Washington Univ. School of Medicine in 1945. In 1949 the director of the newly established National Heart Institute (NHI) invited Dr. Davis to establish a research program on experimental heart failure in the NHI. Jim accepted, and thus began a long series of experiments on congestive heart failure which led to his most important scientific discovery, that the renin-angiotensin system provides the primary control mechanism for aldosterone secretion. Dr. Davis was also the first to block the renin-angiotensin system in experimental heart failure by use of an angiotensin II antagonist. Later he confirmed this finding by use of the oral converting enzyme inhibitor, captopril. Several converting enzyme inhibitors have since been developed and are used extensively in the treatment of heart disease, heart failure and hypertension.

In 1966 Jim returned to MU as professor chairman of the department of physiology in the School of Medicine. While at MU Jim held many national offices, including president of the cardiovascular section of the Americal Physiological Society and president of the International Society of Hypertension. His many honors include the Modern Medicine Distinguished Achievement Award, Ciba Award for Hypertension Research by the American Heart Assoc. and the Carl J. Wiggers Award for Cardiovascular Research of the American Physiological Society. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1982.

Dr. Davis ia a native of Columbia, where he and his wife continue to reside.