Gilbert John Fowler obtained his DSc degree (1904) from the University of Heidelberg, Germany. His specialization was Environmental Science and Engineering. He was Examiner in Chemistry, Union of Lancashire and Cheshire Institute (1893); Consulting Chemist to Rivers Committee (1904); Director, Frankland Laboratory (1912); and Professor of Applied Chemistry (1916-21) and Professor of Biochemistry (1921-24), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Academic and Research Achievements: Fowler’s contributions were mainly to the science and practice of sewage treatment. He played a leading part in the development of the activated sludge process of sewage treatment, which, in his day, was a new chapter in environmental science and technology. The development of the activated sludge process gave a new dimension to the whole field of sewage treatment in which a wider circle of scientists-chemists, microbiologists, engineers and others became interested. Dr Fowler applied the principle of the activated sludge process to the production of compost under aerobic conditions or ‘activated compost’, as he termed it. He was continuously interested in activated sludge, in compost and in other aspects of recovery of nitrogen from waste materials for soil fertilization and crop production. In scientific articles, in lectures and addresses, he developed and enlarged his most favorite theme of nitrogen conservation. Fowler was also responsible for installing activated sludge plants all over India, including one at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He wrote a monograph entitled An Introduction to the Biochemistry of Nitrogen Conservation (Edward Arnold & Co, 1934).
Other Contributions: Fowler was consulted on problems of sewage disposal by municipal bodies of Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, New York, Cairo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and other metropolitan cities. He was also the Consultant to Government of India and other State Governments and Examiner for several Indian universities. He was Member, Industrial Research Council, Government of India (1937-39).
Awards and Honours: Fowler was a Fellow of Royal Institute of Chemistry (Council Member, 1914-16) and Chemical Society, London (President, 1927). He was President, Chemistry Section of Indian Science Congress (1918); Member, Society of Biological Chemists, India (President, 1947-49) and Royal Sanitary Institute (now Royal Society of Health); and Honorary Member of Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society.