Merton E. Davies was educated at Stanford University and worked, 1940-1948, at Douglas Aircraft, and from 1948 at the Rand Corporation. In the early 1950s he began some of the earliest work in the United States on satellites and payload definition. RAND, under a contract with RCA, initiated a study of television cameras and tape recorders for a satellite vehicle, which led to Davies' first work in the area of photo interpretation. This led to work on CORONA, the world's first successful space reconnaissance satellite. He served as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Surprise Attack Conference in Geneva in 1958, and in the same year issued a report on how to take pictures of the moon from a spin-stabilized spacecraft. Davies worked under contract with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to perform photogrammetric studies for increasingly accurate mapping and to plan the camera systems and the photographic strategies for exploring the planets. Davies served on the imaging teams of Mariner 6 and 7 in 1969, Mariner 9 in 1971, and Voyager in 1977 on.
The National Reconnaissance Office acknowledged Davies as one of 10 founders of national reconnaissance, and he was equally honored by the American Geophysical Union. He held the patent for a spin-pan camera design that took panoramic pictures from spin-stabilized spacecraft. He was a consultant to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and a member of the International Astronomical Union's nomenclature task force.