The Man Honored by the Bower Building
November 4, 1855
Today is the birthday of the English botanist and Primitive Plant Expert Frederick Orpen Bower.
Bower served as the Regius chair of botany at the University of Glasgow "Glahs-go." When he arrived in 1885, the department was housed in two rooms, and the herbarium was stuffed into a small attic space. To make matters worse, when Bower lectured, he had to vie for a lecture hall with other departments and faculty.
Fifteen years later, the University finally constructed a new botany building, and when it was finished, the building served as England’s first botanical institute. The 1901 grand opening for the Glasgow botany building was lumped in with the University's 450th-anniversary celebration. The eminent botanist Sir Joseph Hooker opened the building. Almost a century later, the building was renamed to honor Frederick Orpen Bower, and that’s how the building became known as the Bower Building.
Tragically, on October 24, 2001, the Bower building was significantly damaged by a fire. The losses included first editions of Darwin's Origin of the species and Hooker and Bower's works. Many of the oldest botanical manuscripts and books were impacted because they were stored on the third floor under the roof space. After almost four years of continuous work, the building reopened in November 2005.
The 2001 Bower Building fire is a cautionary lesson for archivists and curators to digitally preserve our most precious historical artifacts before they are lost to time.