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William Gowland (1842-1922)

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1910.
1912.

Professor William Gowland (1842-1922)

1842 Born in Sunderland

In 1869 he was made an Associate of the Royal School of Mines. Between 1870 and 1872 he worked as chemist and metallurgist at the Broughton Copper Works, before leaving to work at the Imperial Japanese Mint in Osaka. He became Chief Metallurgist at the Imperial Japanese Mint in 1878, and adviser (Metallurgy) to the Imperial War Department of the Japanese Government. While in Japan, he collected important historical documents, many of which form part of Gowland Collection at the British Museum. He returned to the UK in 1889, returning to the Broughton Copper Works as Chief Metallurgist. He served as a member of the council of the Japan Society, President of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries of London.[1]

1912 Emeritus Professor of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines


1922 Obituary [2]

WILLIAM GOWLAND, F.R.S., Emeritus Professor of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, died on June 10, in his eightieth year. By his death Metallurgy has lost one of its most learned and authoritative exponents, and a man of singular personal charm and distinction.

It is interesting to notice that, like his predecessor at the Royal School of Mines, he had intended to enter the medical profession. Whereas Percy, however, completed his course of instruction and practised professionally for some years, Lowland, after working with a medical man in Sheffield for three years, abandoned this work and became a student at the Royal College of Chemistry. From there he passed, in 1868, to the Royal School of Mines, and two years later obtained the Associateship both in Mining and Metallurgy. He was awarded the Murchison medal in Geology and the De la Beche medal in Mining.

His first post was that of chemist and metallurgist to the Broughton Copper Company, Manchester. Two years later he accepted an invitation to the Imperial Mint at Osaka, Japan, where he held the post of chemist and metallurgist for six years. During the next eleven years he acted as assayer-metallurgist and chief of the foreign staff at Osaka, and was for some time adviser to the Imperial Arsenal. His work was of a decidedly varied nature, and he did much to introduce Western metallurgical and chemical methods into the departments with which he was associated. Indeed, during this period, work of a chemical nature predominated. It was at this time that he acquired the knowledge of Japanese methods of extracting, refining, and working metals, for which he subsequently became so famous. In addition, he carried out exploration work in Korea on behalf of the Japanese Government, which was by no means free from danger to himself and his party.

As a young man Professor Gowland was a keen oarsman, and was the first to introduce rowing into Japan. The use of the wheelbarrow was unknown in the country. He provided with wheelbarrows the labourers who were engaged on some excavation work in the Copper Mint. The Japanese, however, did not appreciate this form of mechanical transport, and very quickly removed the wheels, preferring to carry the barrows, loaded, on their backs.

During his residence he built up a very fine collection of Japanese art, which included some valuable kakemonas. On leaving the country in 1889, the order of " Chevalier of the Imperial Order of the Rising Sun " was conferred on him by the Emperor of Japan, personally. Up till the time of his death he maintained his connection with Japan, where he was held in very high esteem, and his London home became the Mecca of Japanese metallurgical students who visited this country. After his return to England Professor Gowland acted as chief metallurgist to the Broughton Copper Company for some years.

In 1902, however, he entered the academic side of metallurgy, and was appointed Professor at the Royal School of Mines, in succession to the late Sir William Roberts-Austen. This post he held for seven years and retired in 1909, although he again filled his post at the School during an emergency in the session from 1913 to 1914. It is remarkable that a man should enter on what must after all have been a new profession in his sixtieth year, and have made such a success of it. He was extremely thorough in everything that he undertook. His lectures were very carefully prepared and admirably delivered. He had a gift of clear and trenchant exposition. Staff and students found in him a man of his word, who took deep interest in their welfare and was ready to give of his time ungrudgingly in their service. So far as metallurgy is concerned, his chief interest lay in the metals copper, silver, gold, lead, and their alloys. His knowledge of the metallurgy of copper in particular was unique, based as it was upon experience of the best methods in vogue both in the East and the West.

In 1914 he published a text-book on the metallurgy of non-ferrous metals, which quickly became recognized as an authoritative work on the subject, and is now in its third edition. He also contributed various papers to the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, the Chemical Society, and the Society of Chemical Industry. In 1907 he was elected President of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, and in 1909 was awarded the Institution's gold medal. He was an original member of the Institute of Metals (1908), its first May Lecturer (1910), and became its third President (1912-13). There was, however, another side to his intellectual interests, as shown by his membership of the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Anthropological Institute, and the Numismatic Society. His publications under these heads were numerous and varied, dealing with, e.g., the early metallurgy of lead and silver, the remains of a Roman silver refinery at Silchester, silver in pre-historic and proto-historic times, and the burial mounds and dolmens of the early Emperors of Japan. From 1905 to 1907 he acted as President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. During the last seven years of his life Professor Gowland, who did not escape the infirmities of advancing age, was very much confined to his room. He was, however, a man of indomitable spirit, and maintained his intellectual activity and catholicity up to his death. He endeared himself by his personal qualities to a wide circle of friends, by whom he will always be affectionately remembered.--H. C. H. C.


1922 Obituary [3]

PROF. WILLIAM GOWLAND died on June 10 in his eightieth year.

He had originally intended to enter the medical profession and actually worked with a medical man in Sheffield for two or three years.

Afterwards he became a student at the Royal College of Chemistry, from which he passed in 1868 to the Royal School of Mines. Two years later he obtained the associateship both in mining and metallurgy. He was awarded the Murchison medal in geology and the De la Beche medal in mining.

His first post was that of chemist and metallurgist to the Broughton Copper Company, Manchester. Two years later he went out to the Imperial Mint at Osaka, Japan, and held the post of chemist and metallurgist there for six years. During the next eleven years he acted as assayer, metallurgist, and chief of the foreign staff at Osaka, and was for some time adviser to the Imperial Arsenal. His work was of a decidedly varied nature, and he did much to introduce Western metallurgical and chemical methods into the departments with which he was associated. It was during this period that he acquired the knowledge of Japanese methods of extracting, refining, and working metals for which he afterwards became so famous. He carried out exploration work in Korea on behalf of the Japanese Government, in the course of which his expedition had some lively skirmishes with the natives.

As a young man Prof. Gowland was a keen oarsman, and was the first to introduce rowing into Japan. He had two modern "eights" built to encourage boat- racing among the staff of the mint, but they found these craft too unstable for their liking. Eventually they decided to choose their own boats and presented two for his inspection. He found they had selected a pair of "cutters" and had fitted each with port and star- board lights. He was also the first to initiate the Japanese into the use of the wheelbarrow. He had occasion to do this in connexion with some excavation work in the copper mint, and provided the labourers with barrows. The next morning he was astonished to find that the wheels had been removed and the sturdy Japanese were carrying the loaded wheelbarrows. On Leaving Japan in 1889, the order of "Chevalier of the Imperial Order of the Rising Sun" was conferred on him personally by H.I.M. the Emperor of Japan. During his residence there he gradually built up a very fine Japanese art collection, which included some valuable kakemonas.

Returning to England, Prof. Gowland acted as chief metallurgist to the Broughton Copper Company for some years, and in 1902 was appointed professor of metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, in succession to the late Sir William Roberts-Austen. This post he held for seven years and retired in 1909.

So far as metallurgy is concerned, his chief interest lay in the non-ferrous metals, principally copper, silver, gold, lead, and their alloys. His knowledge, in particular, of the metallurgy of copper was unique, based as it was upon experience of the best methods in vogue, both in the East and West.

In 1914 he published a textbook on the metallurgy of the non-ferrous metals which quickly became recognised as an authoritative work on the subject, and is now in its third edition.

He also contributed various papers to the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, the Chemical Society, and the Society of Chemical Industry. He was an original member of the Institute of Metals, its third president, and its first May lecturer. In 1907 he was elected president of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, and in 1909 was awarded the institution's gold medal.

There was, however, another side to his intellectual interests, as shown by his membership of the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Anthropological Institute, and the Numismatic Society. His publications under these heads were numerous and varied, dealing with, e.g., the early metallurgy of silver and lead, the remains of a Roman silver refinery at Silchester, the burial mounds and dolmens of the early Emperors of Japan, and silver in pre-historic and proto-historic times. From 1905 to 1907 he acted as president of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

Prof. Gowland was a man of great personal charm and distinction. He was extremely thorough in all he undertook, and never spared himself in the execution of his duty. His lectures were very carefully prepared and well delivered. The geniality of his disposition made him a general favourite with his colleagues and students, and he will always be affectionately remembered at the Royal School of Mines.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. Extract from a biography by Simon Kaner presented in the Japan Society's website[1]
  2. 1922 Institute of Metals: Obituaries
  3. Nature