E. J. Bowen

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Edmund John Bowen
Dr Bowen's Room, University College, Oxford.JPG
View in Dr Bowen's Room at University College, Oxford, including a photographic portrait of E. J. Bowen held by the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Born (1898-04-29)29 April 1898
Worcester, England
Died 19 November 1980(1980-11-19) (aged 82)
Oxford, England
Nationality British
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Known for The Chemical Aspects of Light,[1] fluorescence
Awards Davy Medal (1963)
Fellow of the Royal Society[2]
Scientific career
Fields Physical chemistry, photochemistry
Institutions University College, Oxford
Doctoral advisor Sir Harold Brewer Hartley[3]
Doctoral students Ahsan Ullah Khan[4]
Walter Sidney Metcalf

Edmund ("Ted") John Bowen FRS[2] (29 April 1898 – 19 November 1980) was a British physical chemist.[5]


Born in Worcester, England, E. J. Bowen attended the Royal Grammar School Worcester. He won the Brackenbury Scholarship in 1915 and 1916 to the University of Oxford where he studied chemistry. He returned to Balliol College after serving as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery during World War I[6] and in 1922 became a Fellow of University College, Oxford. At University College he served as Domestic Bursar and as Junior Proctor of the University in 1936.

Created a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1935 for his research into fluorescence,[7] he was awarded the Davy Medal in 1963.[8] He wrote a seminal book called The Chemical Aspects of Light.[1][9] He was President of the Faraday Society and Vice-President of the Chemical Society.

Much of Bowen's research work was carried out at the Balliol-Trinity Laboratories in Oxford.[10][11] His 1966 Liversedge Lecture on Fluorescence was based on his life's research. After retirement in June 1965, he was elected as an Honorary Fellow of University College on 6 October 1965.[12] He was one of the longest serving Fellows of that college (43 years as an ordinary Fellow and a total of 59 years). There is a room in the college named after him. He was also a prominent Worcester Old Elizabethan serving on its Committee for many years and organising the Oxford branch of that club.

During May 1931, Bowen, then a University don, attended a series of three lectures given by Albert Einstein at Rhodes House in Oxford. After the second lecture on 16 May, he helped rescue the blackboard used by Einstein; Sir Francis Wylie (Warden of Rhodes House) formally presented it to the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford where it remains on prominent display to this day.[13]

It is interesting to note that at around five generations back from Bowen on a chemistry genealogy tree one will find Liebig and at around fourteen generations back, Werner Rolfinck.[4] The line of supervisors can be traced directly back as far back as Niccolò Leoniceno in the 15th century.

As well as chemistry, Bowen also had an interest in geology, especially around Ringstead Bay on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.[14] Perisphinctes boweni, an ammonite from the Jurassic period, is named after him.[2][15][16]

Bowen lived for most of his working life in Park Town[17] and is buried in Wolvercote Cemetery, north of Oxford. Bowen was married to Edith née Moule and they had a son (also a chemist) and a daughter.

Dr Bowen's Room, occupied by E. J. Bowen at University College and now used by Emeritus Fellows, was named in his honour.[18] Bowen's papers (1931–1980) are held by the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.[19]

Notable co-authors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Bowen, E. J. (1942). The Chemical Aspects of Light. Oxford: The Clarendon Press.  (2nd edition, 1946.)
  2. ^ a b c Bell, R. P. (1981). "Edmund John Bowen. 29 April 1898-19 November 1980". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 27: 83–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1981.0004. JSTOR 769866. 
  3. ^ "Academic Genealogy of the NDSU Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" (PDF). North Dakota State University, USA. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Connection from Pietro Roccabonella to E. J. Bowen". USA: Chemistry Tree. Retrieved 27 November 2012. 
  5. ^ Bell, R. P. (2004). Bowen, Edmund John (1898–1980), chemist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30838. Retrieved 10 June 2014. 
  6. ^ "Edmund John Bowen", Lives of the First World War], London: Imperial War Museum, retrieved 13 June 2014 
  7. ^ Bowen, E. J. (1964). "Chemiluminescence from Dissolved Oxygen". Nature. 201 (4915): 180. Bibcode:1964Natur.201..180B. doi:10.1038/201180b0. 
  8. ^ "Davy archive winners 1989–1900". UK: Royal Society. 
  9. ^ Bowen, E. J.; Lind, S. C. (1946). "Chemical Aspects of Light". Journal of Physical Chemistry. 50 (6): 490. doi:10.1021/j150450a012. 
  10. ^ Williams, Robert J. P.; Chapman, Allan; Rowlinson, John S., eds. (2009). Chemistry at Oxford: A History from 1600 to 2005. UK: RSC Publishing. pp. 132, 139, 146–153, 163, 191, 200, 219, 227, 231, 243. ISBN 978-0-85404-139-8. 
  11. ^ Bowen, Edmund J. (December 1970). "The Balliol-Trinity Laboratories 1853–1940". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 25 (2): 227–236. 
  12. ^ "Dr. E. J. Bowen, F.R.S.". University College Record. V (5). University College Oxford. September 1965. pp. 308–310. 
  13. ^ "Bye-bye blackboard ... from Einstein and others". Oxford: Museum of the History of Science. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Wright, J. K. (1986). "A new look at the stratigraphy, sedimentology and ammonite fauna of the Corallian Group (Oxfordian) of south Dorset". Proceedings of the Geologists' Association. 97 (1): 1–21. doi:10.1016/S0016-7878(86)80001-3. 
  15. ^ "Perisphinctes". www.geologypage.com. Geology Page. 21 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  16. ^ "Ammonite / Perisphinctes boweni / France". davesrockshop.com. Dave's Rock Shop. Retrieved 19 February 2018. 
  17. ^ a b c Symonds, Ann Spokes (1997). "Families: The Bowens". The Changing Faces of North Oxford: Book One. Robert Boyd Publications. pp. 81–83. ISBN 1-899536-25-6. 
  18. ^ Roth, William (December 2013). "Bowen Portrait Unveiling". University College, Oxford. Retrieved 13 December 2013. 
  19. ^ "Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of EDMUND JOHN BOWEN, FRS (1898–1980)". UK: The National Archives. CSAC 81.5.81. Retrieved 17 November 2015. 

External links[edit]