Dowson was Professor of Engineering Fluid Mechanics and Tribology in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Leeds. He was also Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Leeds from 1983 to 1985. He retired in 1993 with the title Emeritus Professor.
Dowson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1987. He was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1989.
- Duncan Dowson, Gordon Robert Higginson, Elastohydrodynamic Lubrication J. F. Archand, 1966; 2 edn, 1977
- History of Tribology Longman, 1979, ISBN 978-0-582-44766-0; Wiley, 1998, ISBN 978-1-86058-070-3
- Biomechanics of Joints and Joint Replacements (1981)
- Ball Bearing Lubrication (1981)
- Advances in medical tribology, Mechanical Engineering Publications, 1998, ISBN 978-1-86058-069-7
- University of Leeds, List of Emeritus Professors
- Royal Society, List of Fellows
- University of Leeds, Details of honorary graduates