David was born in Limerick on 16th February 1828. He visited the U.S.A. in 1847, then returned a few years later to settle in Jackson, Mississippi, where he worked as a telegraph operator.
He was superintendent of the Southwestern Telegraph Company at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. He volunteered for the Confederate Army but was induced to retain his position and was appointed censor at Jackson. He remained in the telegraph service through the whole war, being frequently under fire in the course of his duty.
After the war ended in 1865, David moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and continued his work with the telegraph service. In 1870, he was appointed manager of the New Orleans office of the Western Union, and was later appointed manager at Richmond, Virginia, before finally returning to live in Memphis.
Besides being an expert operator, David was a scientific electrician, well known to the electrical world by his contributions to technical literature, and by several important inventions. He patented (#95,013) an advanced telegraph on 21st September 1869, and also patented (#116,826) a printing telegraph on 11th July 1871.
Aside from his mastery of electrical science, he was to the end a student of astronomy, and was for many years a contributor to the popular astronomical periodicals. He had a particular interest in variable stars and furnished numerous valuable observations to the astronomical community. His notebooks for the years 1895 to 1900 contained some four thousand observations on about eighty variable stars.
On 17th June 1900, he wrote "I am confined to my room, but slipped down stairs three steps to an eastern window last night, and had a view of SU Cygni."
On 30th June 1900, he wrote "I write chiefly to say I am alive after being as near death's door as a man gets without being drawn in. So I have little to communicate, but I have notwithstanding kept up my observations of SU Cygni, not missing one on any favorable night."
David died at his home in Memphis, Tennessee, on 6th August 1900.
[one of his inventions, a printing telegraph instrument patented in 1871, is illustrated above; courtesy of the Patent Office. Special thanks are due to Dr. Mike Saladyga of A.A.V.S.O. for sending us biographical notes published in "Popular Astronomy" (1900)]