Bill Bowman

Elected in 2014

Born on 26 April 1930 in Carlisle, UK
Died on 18 July 2013 in Rockcliffe, UK


  • Inspired by his pharmacist father, Bowman began his academic career with a first class degree specializing in pharmacology from the London School of Pharmacy, followed by a PhD from the University of Oxford
  • He established the Department of Pharmacology at the new University of Strathclyde in 1966, putting Strathclyde firmly on the pharmacological map. He became successively Deputy Principal and Vice-Principal, although admitting that "nothing beats contact with students and getting your hands dirty at the laboratory bench"
  • He played a pivotal role in understanding how muscle-relaxing drugs work and developing safer and shorter-acting replacements. Collaboration with Organon Laboratories led to the identification, development of vecuronium and rocuronium, two of the most extensively used muscle relaxants in anaesthetic practice. As a result, it is claimed that “anyone who has had a general anaesthetic in the last 40 years has reason to be grateful to Bill Bowman”
  • Earlier in his career, he began writing a textbook aimed primarily at pharmacy students with his great friend Mike Rand, which became “the standard textbook of pharmacology worldwide” and was translated into many languages
  • He was extensively involved with IUPHAR, which he served as Secretary General from 1994-1998 and also the British Pharmacological Society, which honoured contribution to pharmacology through electing him as an Honorary Fellow and establishing the Bill Bowman Prize Lectureship

Personal life

  • As a school boy during the Second World War, Bowman wanted to be a Spitfire pilot hunting the bombers that were attacking the Glasgow docks
  • As part of his two-year National Service, he was able to join the RAF – and during this time he attended his PhD examination in full RAF uniform with Edith B├╝lbring as external examiner
  • He is survived by children from his first marriage, Alison and Ewen, of whom he was immensely proud. He was preceded in death by his second wife, Anne (Stafford), also a distinguished pharmacologist

Published: 29 Sep 2014 in Pharmacology Hall of Fame