William Sigmond Bowers was born December 24, 1935, to William and Florence Bowers of Decatur, Indiana. Surrounded by his loving family he passed away peacefully at the home he designed and loved in Tucson, AZ on June 23,2021.
William grew up in the small farming town of Decatur, Indiana where his parents owned and operated the Bowers Hardware Store. He attended St. Mary’s Elementary school and St. Joseph’s High School where he became interested in science. In 1953 after graduation, he attended Marquette University for two years then transferred to Indiana University to complete his undergraduate education. A class in entomology during his senior year enticed him into pursuing a career in the study of insect science-specifically insect hormones. He received his AB degree in zoology and chemistry from Indiana University and his doctorate in entomology, biochemistry, and physiology from Purdue University in 1962.
Doctor Bowers accepted the position of Insect Physiologist at the USDA Pioneering Research Laboratory in Beltsville, MD after completing his Ph.D. degree. There he began his research into the Development of biorational strategies for plant and public health protection-Natural product chemistry applied to pest and disease control-Insect growth and behavior regulating allechemicals. In 1965 he synthesized the first insect juvenile hormone which keeps insects at an immature state of development and prevents reproduction. This was a phenomenal discovery for a young scientist. He later discovered an anti-juvenile hormone produced by plants which causes insects to become adults too soon and acts as an insecticide. He was selected as an Outstanding Young Scientist by USDA in 1969 and again in 1970.
In 1972 he accepted a faculty position at Cornell University as a Professor of Entomology and Chemical Ecology. He continued his research programs and guided the education of graduate students and postdoctoral research associates. As a visiting Director of Research for the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya he traveled to Kenya frequently to guide research projects there. In 1980 William received the J. Everett Bussart Memorial Award from the Entomological Society of America.
A move to the University of Arizona 1984 as head of the department of Entomology allowed him to create a faculty of world-renowned scientists during his leadership. He was also instrumental in creating the Centre for Insect Science to be set up by the National Science Foundation as a Biological Center of Excellence. Professor Bowers was selected as a Fulbright Scholar in 1987 and spent six months as a visiting scientist at Assuit University in Cairo, Egypt. In 1988 he returned to his research laboratory as Professor of Chemical Ecology. Many awards followed:
1989 Alexander von Humboldt Award
1991 Founders Memorial Award, Entomological Society of America
1993 President’s International Scholar Award, Assuit University, Cairo, Egypt
1994 Distinguished Alumnus Award, College of Agriculture, Purdue University
1994 Elected, National Academy of Sciences*
1994 Kenneth A. Spenser Award, American Chemical Society
1996 Elected, Fellow of the Entomological Society of America
1999 Elected, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
2000 Silver Medal Award, International Society of Chemical Ecology
2000 Sterling B. Hendricks Award, American Chemical Society
*William was extremely honored by his election to the National Academy of Sciences and considered it the highest accolade an American Scientist could ever receive.
Following a sabbatical at Queensland University in Adelaide, Australia, Professor Bowers retired from the research he dearly loved and became Professor Emeritus on the faculty in 2002. However, he never gave up his love and interest and curiosity about science and followed the science news every day.
Always an avid gardener he spent many happy hours planning, planting, and harvesting his crops and produced great tomatoes and peppers every year wherever his garden happened to be. He planted a vineyard in New York and made fine wine from his grape harvest. Olives became his interest in Arizona, where he planted the trees, and harvested and processed both green and black olives.
It was during his studies at Indiana University that a young student nurse “danced” into his life, and he shared his love and life with Patricia as his wife for 63 years. They enjoyed many travels together by RV, Boat, Plane or Pickup Truck and once made a trip around the world together. It was an exciting life shared by both. William was father to sons Marc (deceased) and Rion, daughters, Dana, Erin and Lisa and grandpa to Leslie, Ryan and Caroline Thompson and Daniel and Emily Bowers.
Our hearts a saddened with the loss of our dear husband, father and grandfather and we will miss his happy smile, good humor, and enthusiasm for life.
A celebration to honor the life of William S. Bowers will be held at a future date.