William Rowan

William Rowan, ornithologist (b at Basle, Switz 29 July 1891; d at Edmonton 30 June 1957).

William Rowan, ornithologist (b at Basle, Switz 29 July 1891; d at Edmonton 30 June 1957). After biological studies at University College, London, England, he became lecturer in zoology at University of Manitoba in 1919 and contributed to ornithological works in Manitoba and Ontario, participating in founding the Natural History Society of Manitoba. He moved to Edmonton in 1920, founding the University of Alberta department of zoology, which he headed until retirement in 1956.

Though active in naturalist and sportsmen groups, he was best known for his scientific research. Although discouraged by University of Alberta President Henry Marshall TORY, Rowan's experiments on the influence of photoperiod on bird hormones, determining the timing of MIGRATION, are now widely cited as a milestone in ornithological history and resulted in his being presented with the Royal Society of Canada's Flavelle Medal.

Rowan's banding studies were also extensive. Later he turned his attention to cyclic population fluctuations in birds and mammals. His contributions to ornithology were recognized in the naming of a race of sandhill CRANE (Grus canadensis rowani) after him. His artistic prowess was exemplified by several exhibits in Canada and England, and by the selection of his crane drawing for a postage stamp. His assistant, Robert Lister, portrayed Rowan's eccentric genius in a book based on his diaries, The Birds and Birders of Beaverhills Lake (1979).

Further Reading

  • M. G. Ainley, Restless Energy: A Biography of William Rowan 1891-1957 (1993); W. Rowan, The Riddle of Migration (1931).

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