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Sir William Bowman, 1st Baronet


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Sir William Bowman, 1st Baronet (July 20, 1816 - March 29, 1892) was an English surgeon, histologist & anatomist. He is most famous for his research using microscopes to study various human organs, though during his lifetime he pursued a successful career as an ophthalmologist.

Born in Nantwich, Cheshire, England, third son of a banker & amateur botanist/geologist, Bowman attended Hazelwood School near Birmingham from 1826.[1] A childhood accident involving gunpowder is supposed to have interested him in medicine, and he was apprenticed to surgeon Joseph Hodgson at Birmingham General Hospital in 1832.[1] He left Birmingham in 1837 to further his training as a surgeon and attended King's College London, where he served as a prosector under Robert Bentley Todd, a professor of physiology.

His earliest notable work was on the structure of striated muscle, for which he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1841.[1] At the young age of 25, he identified what then became known as the Bowman's capsule, a key component of the nephron. He presented his findings in 1842 in his paper "On the Structure and Use of the Malpighian Bodies of the Kidney" to the Royal Society and was awarded the Royal Medal. His collaboration with Todd led to the publication of the five-volume "Physiological Anatomy and Physiology of Man" (1843-1856) and "Cyclopaedia of Anatomy and Physiology" (1852), which detailed their research on microscopy and histology, relating minute anatomical observations to physiological functions. Their extensive use of the microscopes revolutionized the study of anatomy and physiology. Apart from the Bowman's capsule, other anatomical structures named after him include:

  • Bowman's glands — in the olfactory mucosa
  • Bowman's membrane — the anterior limiting membrane in the cornea

After completing his surgical training in 1844, Bowman practised as an ophthalmologist at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital (later known as Moorfields Eye Hospital). He was an early user of the opthalmoscope invented by Hermann von Helmholtz in 1851.[1] Between 1848 and 1855, he also taught at King's College. In 1880, he founded the 'Ophthalmological Society', which later became the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.

In 1884, Queen Victoria created him as a baronet. He died at his house, Joldwynds, near Dorking, in Surrey in 1892.


  1. ^ a b c d Hale-White, W. (1935) 'Sir William Bowman', pp177-188; in Great Doctors of the Nineteenth Century, Edward Arnold & Co
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New creation
(of of Holmbury St Mary)
Succeeded by
William Paget-Bowman
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Sir_William_Bowman,_1st_Baronet". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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