John Bowers (loudspeaker builder)

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John George Frederick Bowers (1923–1987), born near Worthing, UK, was a loudspeaker builder and the founder of B&W Ltd.

Military service[edit]

Bowers was in special operations during World War II contacting allied resistance in occupied Europe by radio transmissions. Posted in Germany in the Royal Corps of Signals, he met Roy Wilkins. They discovered a common interest in radio and decided between them that when the war was over, they would set up a shop to supply components for amateur radio enthusiasts.[1]

Early private sector career[edit]

After the war John Bowers became a Telecommunications Engineer at the Brighton Technical College (now part of the University of Brighton). Together with Roy Wilkins, John Bowers opened an electronics retail store in Worthing under the name Bowers & Wilkins Ltd. The business soon expanded to include television as well as radio. Rentals became a large part of the business and a service department was established to support this extra business, run by a new recruit, Peter Hayward. Almost from the start Bowers and Wilkins became involved in the supply of public address equipment to schools and churches throughout Sussex. Combined with his passion for classical music, this led to John Bowers devoting more and more of his time to the study, design and assembly of loudspeakers. Bowers' designs soon gained a reputation for quality, and before long a small production line was established in workshops behind the shop. A certain Ms. Knight was very pleased with the speakers Bowers made for her, and granted him £10,000 in her will.

Bowers & Wilkins[edit]

Bowers decided to leave the retail business and focus on his speaker building activities. Together with Peter Hayward he founded B&W Ltd. in 1966.

In his approach to perfect reproduction John Bowers combined feedback from recording engineers with extensive R&D and engineering. Within the company he founded a dedicated research department in 1976. Three years of research lead to the revolutionary 1979 Bowers & Wilkins 801 studio monitor that became a long term reference in the music recording industry. In 1982, John Bowers started a dedicated research and development facility in Steyning.

Personal life[edit]

Near his life's end, John Bowers released the John Bowers Active 1 loudspeaker under his own brand name.

On 20 December 1987, John Bowers died after a short illness.[2] A memorial service was held in Arundel Cathedral, Sussex.


  1. ^ Bowers and Wilkins Shop history
  2. ^ John Bowers in Memoriam

Further reading[edit]