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Robert James Lowry
Regents' Proceedings 828

Robert James Lowry, Professor of Botany, retired in January from a noteworthy career as a teacher and investigator in the best scientific tradition.

Born on a farm near Chelsea, Michigan, Professor Lowry spent his early years in a rural environment where his interest in natural history first developed. When he was eleven, the family moved to Ann Arbor where he entered Mack School; his curriculum included a science class taught by Myron van Ells, who, in addition to his vocation as a teacher, operated a wholesale biological supply business. He soon offered young Lowry employment after school and on weekends to assist him in collecting biological materials and subsequently, taught him to prepare microscope slides. Later, the two men formed a partnership and for some years after completing high school Professor Lowry worked in the business.

Among his other interests as a youth was amateur radio and electronics, the knowledge of which proved to be repeatedly useful in his later career. In 1936 he sold his interest in the biological supply business and resumed his formal education, enrolling in The University of Michigan. To support himself, he worked as a technician, preparing microscope slides for the Zoology Department. However, he pursued a concentration program in botany, receiving his Bachelor's degree in 1940 and his Master's in 1941.

Entry of the United States into World War II interrupted his studies toward the Ph.D. in Botany; he put his knowledge of electronics to good use, becoming a technical assistant with the Engineering Research Institute where he contributed first to the development of the proximity fuse for anti-aircraft shells and later, to the Manhattan Project.