Bowen's Kale

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A jar of Bowen's Kale, in the collection of the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford, England.[1]

Produced by Humphry Bowen, the reference material called Bowen's Kale was used for the calibration of early scientific instruments intended to measure trace elements in the 1960s.[2]

With Peter Cawse, Bowen grew, dried and crushed a large amount of marrow-stem kale[3] (Brassica oleracea var. medullosa) into 100 kg of a homogeneous and stable powder in 1960 that was subsequently freely distributed to researchers around the world for over two decades. This was probably the first successful example of such a de facto standard.[4] It stimulated preparation of further materials by other organizations for similar use.

See also[edit]



  • Bowen, H. J. M., A standard biological material for elementary analysis. In P. W. Sallis (ed.), Proc. of the SAC Conference, Nottingham, UK, pp. 25–31. Cambridge: W. Heffer and Sons, 1965.
  • Bowen, H. J. M., Kale as a reference material. In W. R. Wolf (ed.), Biological Reference Materials: Availability, uses and need for validation of nutrient measurement, pp. 3–17. John Wiley & Sons, 1984.
  • Stoeppler, M., Wolf, W. R. and Jenks, P. J. (eds.), Reference Materials for Chemical Analysis: Certification, Availability and Proper Usage. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, 2001. ISBN 3-527-30162-3. (See pages 4, 26, 59 & 216.)