E. J. Bowen

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Edmund John Bowen
Ted Bowen in DSc academic dress, Oxford (1977)
Born(1898-04-29)29 April 1898
Worcester, England
Died19 November 1980(1980-11-19) (aged 82)
Oxford, England
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Known forThe Chemical Aspects of Light,[4] fluorescence
AwardsFellow of the Royal Society (1935)[1]
Davy Medal (1963)
Liversidge Award (1965/66)[2]
Scientific career
FieldsPhysical chemistry, photochemistry
InstitutionsUniversity College, Oxford
Doctoral advisorSir Harold Brewer Hartley[3]
Doctoral studentsWalter Metcalf

Edmund ("Ted") John Bowen FRS[1] (29 April 1898 – 19 November 1980) was a British physical chemist.[5][6]

Early life and wartime career[edit]

E. J. Bowen was the eldest of four born to Edmund Riley Bowen and Lilias Bowen (née Kamester) in 1898 in Worcester, England.[7] He attended the Royal Grammar School Worcester.[7]

He won the Brackenbury Scholarship in 1915 to the University of Oxford where he studied chemistry.[7] In 1916, after less than a year of his undergraduate course, he volunteered for training as a gunner officer and served as Second Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery during World War I.[8] After being demobilised in 1919, he returned to Balliol College.[7]

Research career[edit]

In 1922, Bowen became a Fellow in Chemistry of University College, Oxford, succeeding R. B. Bourdillon, who was briefly Fellow in Chemistry at the College from 1919 to 1921, but who subsequently changed his field of interest from chemistry to medicine. Bowen also served as Domestic Bursar of University College and as Junior Proctor of Oxford University in 1936.[7]

Created a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1935 for his research into fluorescence,[9] he was awarded the Davy Medal in 1963.[10] He wrote a seminal book called The Chemical Aspects of Light.[4][11] He was Vice-President of the Faraday Society and of the Chemical Society.[5]

Much of Bowen's research work was carried out at the Balliol-Trinity Laboratories in Oxford.[12][13] He was an accomplished glass blower for his chemical apparatus[1] and even produced artworks in glass.[14] His 1966 Liversidge 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.[15] 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;[16][17] 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.[18]

As well as chemistry, Bowen also had an interest in geology, especially around Ringstead Bay on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset on the south coast of England.[19] Perisphinctes boweni,[20] an ammonite from the Jurassic period, is named after him.[1][21][22] Bowen was involved with the Oxford University Museum of Natural History and produced a scale model of the sun, earth, and moon, for the upper galleries in the museum.[23]

Later life and death[edit]

Bowen lived for most of his working life in Park Town[24] 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. He died on 19 November 1980 after a short illness.[7]

Bowen room[edit]

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

The room at University College that Bowen used was subsequently named the 'Bowen room'.[25] It was used by Emeritus Fellows of the college and later occupied by Prof. Ruth Chang.[26] Bowen's papers (1931–1980) are held by the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford.[27][28]

Notable co-authors[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d 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.
  2. ^ "Liversidge Award Previous Winners". Archive.org. Royal Society of Chemistry. 2017. Archived from the original on 27 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Academic Genealogy of the NDSU Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" (PDF). North Dakota State University, USA. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 December 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
  4. ^ a b Bowen, E. J. (1942). The Chemical Aspects of Light. Oxford: The Clarendon Press. (2nd edition, 1946.)
  5. ^ a b Bell, R. P. (2004). "Bowen, Edmund John (1898–1980), chemist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 1 (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/30838. Retrieved 10 June 2014. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  6. ^ "Obituary: E. J. Bowen". The Times. 22 November 1980.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Bell, Ronald Percy (1981). "Edmund John Bowen". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 27: 83–101. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1981.0004. ISSN 0080-4606.
  8. ^ Edmund John Bowen on Lives of the First World War
  9. ^ Bowen, E. J. (1964). "Chemiluminescence from Dissolved Oxygen". Nature. 201 (4915): 180. Bibcode:1964Natur.201..180B. doi:10.1038/201180b0.
  10. ^ "Davy archive winners 1989–1900". UK: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 31 July 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  11. ^ Bowen, E. J.; Lind, S. C. (1946). "Chemical Aspects of Light". Journal of Physical Chemistry. 50 (6): 490. doi:10.1021/j150450a012.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Bowen, Edmund J. (December 1970). "The Balliol-Trinity Laboratories 1853–1940". Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London. 25 (2): 227–236. doi:10.1098/rsnr.1970.0031. S2CID 143194112.
  14. ^ Bowen, Jonathan P. (29 June 2014). "Chemistry and art (slide 37)". Creative Visualization in Chemistry. SlideShare. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  15. ^ "Dr. E. J. Bowen, F.R.S.". University College Record. Vol. V, no. 5. University College, Oxford. September 1965. pp. 308–310.
  16. ^ Fox, Robert (23 May 2018). "Einstein in Oxford". Notes and Records. 72 (3). The Royal Society: 293–318. doi:10.1098/rsnr.2018.0002.
  17. ^ Robinson, Andrew (2019). Einstein on the Run. Yale University Press. p. 162. ISBN 978-0-300-23476-3.
  18. ^ "Bye-bye blackboard ... from Einstein and others". Oxford: Museum of the History of Science. Retrieved 1 December 2013.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Fossil specimen : OUM J.04562 – Holotype". GB3D Type Fossils. UK. Retrieved 11 August 2023.
  21. ^ "Perisphinctes". www.geologypage.com. Geology Page. 21 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  22. ^ "Ammonite / Perisphinctes boweni / France". Dave's Rock Shop. Archived from the original on 17 December 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  23. ^ Czerkaszyn, Danielle (12 August 2021). "Solving a Celestial Mystery: The Sun, Earth and Moon Model". More than a Dodo. Museum of Natural History University of Oxford. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  24. ^ 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 978-1-899536-25-2.
  25. ^ Roth, William (December 2013). "Bowen Portrait Unveiling". Archive.org. UK: University College, Oxford. Archived from the original on 18 December 2013. Retrieved 13 December 2013.
  26. ^ "Ruth Chang". UK: University College, Oxford. Retrieved 11 August 2023.
  27. ^ "Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of EDMUND JOHN BOWEN, FRS (1898–1980)". UK: The National Archives. CSAC 81.5.81. Retrieved 26 March 2024.
  28. ^ "Papers and correspondence of Edmund John Bowen, 1898–1980". Archives Hub. UK: Jisc. GB 463 MS Bowen. Retrieved 26 March 2024.

External links[edit]