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Biographical entry Lowne, Benjamin Thompson (1839? - 1925)

MRCS May 2nd 1861; FRCS June 19th 1873; LSA 1873; MD Durham 1896.

8 February 1925
botanist, Ophthalmic surgeon and Physiologist


The son of Benjamin Thompson Lowne, who practised at 17 Bartlett's Buildings, BC. He was educated at St Bartholomew's Hospital, assisted his father for some years after qualifying, and then entered the Navy as Assistant Surgeon, but resigned before 1867. In January, 1864, he received a grant from the Royal Society, travelled in Palestine with the Rev H B Tristram, and published a paper on the Flora of the South of the Dead Sea. He had already published in 1861 a paper on "The Natural History of Great Yarmouth".

In 1867 he was living in Hatton House, Hatton Gardens, was Surgeon to the Foresters' Club, and was working upon the anatomy of the blow-fly, issuing a monograph on the subject in 1870. He was living in Colville Gardens in 1873 when he gained an Actonian Prize awarded by the Royal Institution with an essay on "The Philosophy of Evolution".

He was appointed Lecturer on Physiology and General Anatomy at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School in 1871 in succession to Sir David Ferrier, and resigned in 1895. In October, 1874, he was elected Junior Surgeon to the Great Northern Hospital, a post he exchanged in 1876 for that of Ophthalmic Surgeon. About this time, too, he had become President of the Quekett Microscopical Society and had published a Student's Guide to Physiology. At the Royal Veterinary College in Camden Town, Lowne was appointed Lecturer on Botany in 1885 in succession to E S Shave, and he also lectured on helminthology in succession to Dr Spencer Cobbold until February, 1888. He had applied to be appointed Lecturer on Physiology in 1881 when Henry Power (qv) was invited to take the post.

At the Royal College of Surgeons he edited the Teratological Catalogue of the Museum in 1872. He was Arris and Gale Lecturer on Anatomy and Physiology from 1876-1880, taking as his subjects "Teratology", "The Physiology of Nerve Stimulation", "The Physiology of Sensation", and "The Development of Sensory Organs". He gave the Hunterian Lectures from 1890-1893 on "The Embryology and After-development of Insects"; "The Structure and Development of the Skeleton of the Head, the Nervous System and Sensory Organs of Insects in Relation to Recent Views on the Origin of Vertebrates, and Some Recent Views on the Development of the Embryo"; and "The Relation of the Parablast to the Blastoderm as exemplified in the Development of Insects in the Egg and Pupa"; and finally "Respiration and Circulation in some Invertebrates". He was a Member of the Board of Examiners in Anatomy and Physiology, 1879-1883, of the Board of Examiners for the Fellowship 1886-1896, and of the Examining Board in England from 1887-1892.
About 1896 he left London and was appointed Medical Officer of the Crondall District of the Hartley Wintney Union, but shortly afterwards moved to 7, Modena Road, Hove, and finally to 34 Portland Road, Hove, where he died in obscurity on Feb 8th, 1925, the news of his death not being received at the College until four years later. His wife died many years before him.

Lowne was wholly unsuited for the position allotted to him in life, but would have done admirable work as a student and life-long investigator in a biological or physiological institute. Mean-looking, with a shaggy beard, a raucous voice, and an inability to pronounce the letter 'r', he could not maintain order in his lecture-room, or hold his own against a class of medical or veterinary students. As an examiner he was just and painstaking, but often failed to make the examinee understand the question he was asking. In general practice he was equally lacking in the qualities which make for success, as he often appeared unsympathetic and was inclined to argue. He had a vast fund of general knowledge, indomitable patience, and was a master in minute dissection, as is shown in his classic work on the blow-fly. He was, too, a skilful draughtsman and drew his illustrations directly on the copper plate. He was a loyal friend and was ever ready to acknowledge his debt to fellow-workers.

Natural History of Great Yarmouth, 1861.
"On the Vegetation of the Western and Southern Shores of the Dead Sea." - Jour Linnean Soc (Botany), 1867, NS ix, 201
The Anatomy and Physiology of the Blow Fly, 8vo, illustrated, 10 plates, London, 1870, John van Voorst, of Paternoster Row. This was elaborated and appeared as The Anatomy, Physiology, Morphology and Development of the Blow Fly, 2 vols, London, 1890-2 and 1893-5, published for the author by R H Porter, 15 Princes Street, Cavendish Square, W.
The Philosophy of Evolution: An Actonian Prize Essay, 8vo, 1873.
A Sketch of Scientific Medicine, being the introductory lecture delivered at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, Oct 1st, 1875, 8vo, London, 1875.
A Manual of Ophthalmic Surgery, 12mo, plates, London, 1876.
"Some Phenomena of Vision." - Proc Roy Soc, 1876, xxv, 487.
"On the Relation of Light to Sensation." - Jour Anat and Physiol, 1877, xi, 706.
"Modifications of the Simple and Compound Eyes of Insects." - Phil Trans, 1878, clxix, 577; Proc Roy Soc, 1878, xxvii, 261.
"Physiology of Arthropod Vision." - Trans Linnean Soc, 1884, 2nd ser. (Zoology), 389.
Teratological Catalogue of the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 1872 and 1893.
Aids to Physiology, 1884.
A full bibliography of Lowne's works appears in the Catalogue of Scientific Papers published by the Royal Society, 1879, viii; 1894, x; and 1918, xvi.

Sources used to compile this entry: [Personal knowledge. Additional information kindly given by E Gilbert Panter, Esq, Secretary of the Royal Northern Hospital; by R A Foley, Esq, Secretary of the Middlesex Hospital; and by Thomas Wright, Esq, the Secretary of the Royal Veterinary College].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England