William Gowland

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William Gowland, F.R.S., F.S.A., born 1842, died June 10th, 1922. By Sir C. Hercules Read, P.S.A. 

Professor William Gowland died on June 10th at the age of 80 years. As a chemist and metallurgist he had had a long and distinguished career, and his contributions to the proceedings of the numerous societies of which he was a member have greatly advanced knowledge in the particular directions in which he was interested. For sixteen years from 1872 he was chemist and the European head of the Japanese mint, educating his successors so as to render them independent of foreign aid. During his residence in Japan he excavated a great number of dolmens of the period covering the earlier centuries of our era, and on his retirement he brought the collection thus formed to England, where he ceded it to the late Sir Wollaston Franks on favourable terms, and it now forms an important section of the Japanese section of the British Museum. From the moment of his retirement from the Japanese Service he devoted himself assiduously to scientific pursuits, by no means confined to chemistry and metallurgy, but spreading his interests over a wide field, comprising anthropology and archaeology. He made many important communications to the Journal of the Institute, and was a frequent contributor to the publications of the Society of Antiquaries. For years past he had written papers on the history of the principal metals, which were printed in Archceologia. But his principal service to the archaeological world was in the raising of the great leaning stone at Stonehenge, under the auspices of the Society of Antiquaries. In performing this work he demonstrated the methods that had been adopted in shaping and in raising the great monoliths, and was enabled, moreover, to produce evidence to show that the date of its construction was at the end of the neolithic age. The fact that the monument was at that time in private ownership imposed considerable limitations on the scope of operations, though the owner, Sir Edmund Antrobus, was throughout the work in entire sympathy with Professor Gowland and the Society.

In the determination of the metallic relics found in explorations, Professor Gowland’s great knowledge was always freely placed at the disposal of his fellow workers, and he was invaluable in discovering analogies for ancient methods of working from his wide experience in the East. He was extremely generous in imparting knowledge and will be greatly missed in many circles of scientific research. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and Emeritus Professor of Metallurgy at the Royal School of Mines, and the Japanese Government made him a Chevalier of the Order of the Rising Sun. No one who knew him at all intimately could fail to admire his vast and accurate knowledge, and his generous character attracted the regard of all who came in contact with him.    


This obituary first appeared as: Read, C. Hercules. 1922. ‘William Gowland, F.R.S., F.S.A, born 1842, died June 10th, 1922’. Man Vol. 22, pp. 137-138. Reproduced with permission.


To cite this article:

READ, C. HERCULES. 1922. ‘William Gowland, F.R.S., F.S.A, born 1842, died June 10th, 1922’. Man Vol. 22, pp. 137-138. (available on-line: http://www.therai.org.uk/archives-and-manuscripts/obituaries/william-gowland).


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