Teacher and sociologist, was born in Dorset the son of a taxi-driver who became a revivalist preacher at Hyde Park. The family moved to Mortlake and attended Barnes Methodist Church.. After attending East Cheam Grammar School, he trained as a teacher at Westminster College and, while still teaching took his first degree by correspondence course with Wolsey Hall, Oxford, followed by a doctorate in 1964 at the LSE, published in 1965 as Pacifism: A sociological and historical study. Two years as a lecturer at Sheffield University led to a lifelong career as lecturer, reader and ,from 1971 until retirement in 1989, professor at the LSE and a prolific list of 24 books and numerous contributions to other titles on the sociology of religion. In 2000 he received an honorary doctorate from Helsinki University.
In his work he challenged the prevailing emphasis on secularisation and contributed significantly to the study of Pentecostalism in South America. He was a devotee of the language of the Prayer Book, a skilful pianist and a lover of English poetry. From 1953 to 1977 he was a Methodist local preaacher. After attending theological studies at Westcott House, Cambridge, in his fifties he was ordained into the Anglican Church and served as an honorary Assistant Priest at Guildford Cathedral. He died on 8 March 2019.
Hs many books included A Sociology of English Religion (1967), Tongues of Fire (1990) and Pentecostalism: the World their Parish (2002) .The Education of David Martin: the making of an unlikely sociologist, edited by Andrew Walker and Martyn Percy was published in his honour in 2013.