Professor E G Bowen
Physics at Swansea has an enviable reputation for attracting talented scientists, from the founding Professor of Physics, Evan Jenkin Evans, who studied under Ernest Rutherford at Manchester, through to today's world-leaders in antimatter, quantum chromodynamics, and String Theory. The Department has also been home to numerous students who went on to enjoy international success, including E G Bowen FRS (1911-91), who graduated from Swansea in 1930.
Bowen researched X-rays and the structure of alloys for his MSc, and was subsequently awarded his PhD from King's College London. He spent much of the early 1930s working on a cathode-ray direction finder - research that would play an important part in the development of radar.
Bowen was part of the first team to use radar as a means of detecting aircraft, and he went on to develop airborne radar systems that could detect ships and submarines as well as aircraft. His work played a major role in defending Britain from air and naval attacks during the Second World War, and had a direct impact on the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic.
During 1940 and 1941, Bowen spent time in the United States as part of the British Technical and Scientific Mission, or "Tizard Mission". The initiative sought to strengthen links with American scientists in order to develop and exploit new resources and technologies that could aid the war effort. Bowen worked closely with his American counterparts to help them develop the US' first airborne radar system; his collaboration helped to establish a longstanding bilateral commitment to technology transfer that would benefit both nations for decades to come.
After the war, Bowen joined the CSIRO Radiophysics Laboratory in Australia, where he helped to found a new scientific discipline: radioastronomy. He subsequently secured funding for the establishment of the 210ft Parkes Radio Telescope, which he also helped to design. The result was that Bowen's research turned from tracking aircraft by radar, to tracking the Apollo space missions by radio telescope. He remains widely regarded as one of the giants of 20th Century physics; he was awarded an OBE in 1941, the American Medal of Freedom in 1947, a CBE in 1962, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1975.
With thanks to Professor Mike Charlton, Professor David Olive, and Dr Colin Evans.