The Rev. Dr. Martin W. Davis, 53, professor of sociology at the University of the District of Columbia and former principal of Mackin High School here died Wednesday while undergoing surgery at Washington Hospital Center. He lived in Silver Spring.

Dr. Davis, a native of Manitowoc, Wis., entered the Society of the Divine Savior in 1945, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1951. He received a B.A. degree from the Divine Savior Seminary in Lanham; a degree in theology and a master's degree in history of modern philosophy from Catholic University; a master's degree in education from Marquette University in Michigan, and a doctorate in education from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.

He joined the staff of D.C. Teachers College in 1971 as an institutional researcher, and was promoted to professor this year.

He had previously been dean of studies at the Mother of the Savior Preparatory School in Blackwood, N.J., director of education for the Salvatorian Province, and president of Mount St. Paul College in Waukesha, Wis.

Survivors include his mother, Frances Weber Davis, of Manitowoc, two brothers, Richard and Jack; and two sisters, June McMeel and Patricia Russo.

The family requests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of donations to the Davis Memorial at Mackin High School.