Malcolm Cleaburne Bowman (1926–1993)

Malcolm Cleaburne Bowman was respected worldwide as an analytical chemist, researcher, and author. He and his associates are credited with devising many techniques and processes as well as developing much of the equipment that became common within the fields of chemistry and scientific research.

Malcolm Bowman was born on December 6, 1926, in Alcedo, Texas, to Clyde C. Bowman, a Cotton Belt Railroad brakeman and conductor, and Lillian McBee Bowman, a teacher and retail clerk; he was the couple’s only child. The family moved to Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) in 1936.

Bowman graduated from Pine Bluff High School and went on to receive a BS in chemistry at Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County) in 1949. Bowman also studied chemistry and mathematics at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), Henderson State College (now Henderson State University) in Arkadelphia (Clark County), Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Texas A&M University in College Station. He received a master’s degree in chemistry from Texas A&M.

Bowman married Julia Mae Mitchell in Sheridan (Grant County) on February 10, 1951. The couple had three sons.

Bowman worked for thirty years as a federal government administrator and chemist, beginning in 1951 with the U.S. Army Chemical Corps at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. In 1957, he joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and served in Georgia and Florida. He left the government briefly in 1961 and worked as a chemist in Campbell Soup Company’s pesticide laboratory in New Jersey.

Rejoining the USDA in 1962, Bowman performed pioneering research in pesticide residue analysis, achieving international status for his efforts in highly sensitive screening of toxic chemicals—primarily pesticides—within environmental components and food production. Bowman’s endeavors resulted in enhanced application of farm chemicals worldwide.

Bowman was named chief of the Food and Drug Administration’s Division of Chemistry’s Analytical Methods Branch at the National Center for Toxicological Research (NCTR) in Jefferson (Jefferson County), adjacent to the Pine Bluff Arsenal, in 1972. He became the division’s director in 1978. At NCTR, Bowman and his colleagues gained admiration for their development of detection methods for powerful chemical mixtures known to cause cancer. Bowman’s crew succeeded in eliminating carcinogens and other toxins from the facility’s wastewater.

Hailed as a genius in designing research, Bowman had three patents on chromatographic science equipment. He also wrote or co-wrote more than 200 books and journal articles, among them Carcinogens and Related Substances: Analytical Chemistry for Toxicological Research (1979) and The Handbook of Carcinogens and Hazardous Substances: Chemical and Trace Analysis (1982). He was acclaimed for his ability to relate particulars of science and chemistry, generally restricted to distinctive language requiring extensive knowledge of the subjects, in such an easy manner that untrained readers could easily comprehend it. Bowman was also a participant in various professional conferences across the globe. The Food and Drug Administration gave him a special award in 1978, and he was twice nominated for a prestigious American Chemical Society Spencer Award.

Bowman worked in a private laboratory after retiring in 1981. He became ill with cancer and eventually died in Little Rock on March 18, 1993. He is buried in Lufkin, Texas.

For additional information:
Williams, Nancy A., ed. Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Rick Joslin
White Hall, Arkansas

 This entry, originally published in Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives, appears in the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas in an altered form. Arkansas Biography is available from the University of Arkansas Press.


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