Archibald Allan Bowman (1883-1936), Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1926-36

Archibald Allan Bowman (1883-1936), Professor of Moral Philosophy, 1926-36

Janice Miller

(First published in Dunaskin News, February 2003)

The front page of a letter from "Archie" Bowman, aged five, staying at Beith, to his parents, 1889.  (GUAS Ref: DC 77/1/1/1.  Copyright reserved.)This months featured collection may be the only one of its kind among the papers of academic staff deposited at GUAS.  Archibald Allan Bowman was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow University from 1926-36 (see also Biography of Archibald Bowman - The University of Glasgow Story website) .  The collection (GUAS Ref: DC 77) is unique in its completeness, covering not only his time at Glasgow University but his life as a whole, beginning with some letters he wrote to his parents at the age of five.  Also from his early years is a remarkable charcoal sketch of a girl which he drew when only thirteen years old.

After finishing school A A Bowman studied at Glasgow University between 1901 and 1905.  He won many prizes as an undergraduate including the Edward Caird Medal in Moral Philosophy (1904-05), and graduated with First Class Honours in Philosophy and Second Class Honours in Classics.

Following graduation he was awarded first the Ewing Fellowship in Philosophy (1906) and then the George A Clark and Ferguson Scholarships (1907).  He was also appointed Assistant to the Professor of Logic at Glasgow University and Lecturer in Logic at Queen Margaret College.

During this period the exchange of letters between A A Bowman and Mabel Stewart began.  The couple, who were married in 1912, kept up a considerable correspondence throughout their life together.  These letters documenting their close relationship form a large part of the collection.


Photograph of A A Bowman, second from left, trench digging whilst at OTC camp, 1908 or 1909.  (GUAS Ref: DC 77/9/2/19. Copyright reserved.) 
In 1912 Bowman was appointed Chair of Logic at Princeton University, USA.  However, when the First World War broke out, he applied for leave of absence to join the British Army.  This was granted in 1915 and he joined the Highland Light Infantry, being seconded to the 52nd Training Battalion at Windygates, Fife and serving in both Britain and France (see also Biography of Lieutenant Archibald Allan Bowman - University of Glasgow WWI Roll of Honour website).  The collection includes manuals and photographs from his military training.  He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lys in April 1918 and was held in a prison camp at Hesepe in Germany.




Photograph of A A Bowman, middle back row, with group of Highland Light Infantry officers, Glasgow, c1915. (GUAS Ref: DC 77/9/2/19. Copyright reserved.) Whilst a prisoner of war he wrote Sonnets from a Prison Camp.  The original draft of the poems, which were later published, is held in the collection.  The collection also includes letters exchanged between Bowman and his wife during the period of his internment in the camp.

Following repatriation A A Bowman returned to Princeton in September 1919.  In 1926 he was appointed to the Chair of Moral Philosophy at Glasgow, a position he was to retain until his death in 1936.




Photograph of a Bowman Medal in presentation case.  (GUAS Ref: DC 77/1/6/24. Copyright reserved.)  As a memorial the A A Bowman medal was awarded to a student of the Ordinary Class of Moral Philosophy presented first in 1938.

A A Bowman’s other published works include The Absurdity of Christianity and other Essays, Studies in the Philosophy of Religion, and A Sacramental Universe.  He also wrote and delivered a great many talks on a wide range of subjects including the League of Nations, adult education, and temperance.

This collection gives a rare insight into the professional and also the personal life of a remarkable man.  His son Archibald Iain Bowman collected a great deal of material for an unfinished biography of his father, which is held as part of his own papers (GUAS Ref: DC 137).