**John McCowan** was a Scottish physicist who was a pioneer in the study of fluid mechanics and wave theory.

- John McCowan attended the University of Glasgow, taking classes in Latin and Greek in Session 1879-80.
- References to McCowan in the Minutes of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in 1885 wrongly put M.A. after his name instead of B.Sc. He had already taken some M.A. courses and in 1883 he was taking further M.A. courses, being the best student in Second Year Mathematics.
- After graduating with a B.Sc., McCowan was awarded the Thomson Experimental Scholarship for Session 1883-84.
- By the terms of the scholarship, he had to engage in continuous investigation for at least nine months and, from October 1883 to June 1884, McCowan reported to Thomson on the progress of his work.
- McCowan sat the University of Glasgow M.A. examinations in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in November 1884 before leaving to take up an appointment at the Royal College of Science in Dublin.
- In January 1885 McCowan was proposed for membership of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society by Thomas Muir, the proposal being seconded by Andrew Barclay.
- After four years in Dublin, McCowan returned to Scotland by 1888, being appointed as a demonstrator of physics and assistant in mathematics to Professor John Steggall at University College, Dundee.
- He was succeeded by Mr John McCowan, whose attainments as a mathematical physicist have been of great value to my department.
- McCowan read papers at meetings of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society frequently during a very active period between 1891 and 1895.
- This paper, perhaps the most important work by McCowan, was published in Philosophical Magazine.
- McCowan applied Stokes's notion for breaking to obtain the maximum relative height to breadth of 0.78.
- At this meeting McCowan was elected to the Committee of the Society, then at the November meeting in the following year of 1893 he was elected Vice-Chairman.
- McCowan presented one further paper to the Society, namely On the operation of division on 10 April 1895.
- methods of approximation were given by Lord Rayleigh and John McCowan.
- Sadly McCowan' health deteriorated, forcing him to reduce his research activities.
- John McCowan died at 6 a.m. on the morning of 24 November 1900.
- At the meeting of the Edinburgh Mathematical Society on 14 December 1900, the chairman, John Watt Butters, made a sympathetic reference to the death of Dr John McCowan who was president of the society during Session 1894-95.
- At the meeting of the Society on 11 January 1901 John Steggall explained that the mathematical papers of the late Dr McCowan had been handed over to him "for examination with a view to their ultimate publication".
- The society hoped that some of Dr McCowan's papers could first of all be published in the Proceedings.
- It will be remembered that during the previous session the unexpected failure of Dr McCowan's health caused considerable inconvenience to the Departments of Mathematics and Physics.

Born 4 February 1863, Bridge of Allan, near Stirling, Scotland. Died 24 November 1900, Bridge of Allan, near Stirling, Scotland.

View full biography at MacTutor

Origin Scotland

**Oâ€™Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F**: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive