Bower | Frederick Orpen | 1855-1948 | regius professor of botany, University of Glasgow

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

Frederick Orpen Bower (1845-1948) was born at Ripon, Yorkshire. His early education was at Repton which, despite a limited scientific syllabus, saw Bower being encouraged in natural history by his headmaster. In 1874 he entered Trinity College Cambridge and was taught elementary biology by Mathew Foster, the only scientific education of any substance available to him there. His introduction to the then just published English version of Julius von Sachs' Text-book of botany, morphological and physiological, (1875) was soon followed by his beginning work with the Sachs taught Sydney Howard Vines, who had experience of the new types of scientific teaching being developed by Thomas Henry Huxley at the time in South Kensington.

Two years later Bower went to Würzburg to study under Sachs. At this time pioneering work at the German universities in the direction of morphology was attracting students form across the globe. In 1879 he studied under Anton de Bary at Strasbourg. On his return to Britain, Bower began work at University College London, assisting Daniel Oliver and later lecturing under Thomas Henry Huxley himself. He also worked at Kew with Dukinfield Henry Scott and began to have a significant impression amongst his colleagues and contemporaries. In 1885, at he age of only 29, he became regius professor of botany at the University of Glasgow, where he remained until his retirement in 1925 and his return to Ripon.

Bower was particularly associated with research and publications on ferns, contributing greatly to the understanding or their origins and evolution. His 3 volume The Ferns, (1923-1928) was highly acclaimed in terms of its contribution to classification. In line with the devloping areas of palaeobotany and morphology, his The Origin of a Land Flora, ( 1908) saw him develop Celakovsky's 'antithetic' theory as a working hypothesis while research into morphology itself developed further. Bower's 40 years at Glasgow saw the school there gain a world-wide reputation for morphological botany.


Bower's uncle was Francis Orpen Morris (1810-1893), clergyman and naturalist.

While at the Royal College of Science, London, Bower was closely associated with Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-1895).

Other Significant Information

Noteable publications:

Practical Botany for Beginners, ( 1894)

The Origin of a Land Flora, (1908)

The Botany of the Living Plant, ( 1919)

The Ferns , (1923-1928)

Sixty Years in Botany in Britain (1875-1935), (1938)

Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

c1875: Sc.D (first class), Trinity College Cambridge

1891: Fellow of the Royal Society of London

1909: Linnean Medal

1910: Royal Medal

1917: Appointed Hooker Lecturer

1929: Appointed Huxley Memorial Lecturer

1925: LLD, University of Glasgow

1938: Darwin Medal


List of sources for the biographical information:

Gillespie, Charles Coulston (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography, ( New York, Charles Scibner's Sons, 1970)