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Fowler K.B.E., LL.D., D.Sc., was one of the most widely known engineers of his time, chiefly because of the remarkable range of his professional interests and his keen support of a large number of technical and scientific institutions, in many of which he was a leading figure.
He was born at Evesham in 1870 and studied engineering at Mason Science College, Birmingham, from 1885 to 1887, when he commenced his apprenticeship in the Horwich works of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. He served in the shops until 1891 when he obtained a Whitworth Exhibition and was transferred to the test room. In 1894 he became chief inspector of materials and in the following year he was appointed gas manager to the company. Shortly afterwards he became interested in automobiles, and was associated with some important motor car trials at the Crystal Palace in 1897. He maintained this interest throughout his life, for subsequently he was prominently connected with heavy road car trials of the Liverpool Self-Propelled Traffic Association, and in 1920-1 he was elected president of the Institution of Automobile Engineers.
In 1900 he was appointed gas engineer to the Midland Railway, and later held the positions of assistant works manager and works manager at Derby. He succeeded Mr. R. M. Deeley, M.I.Mech.E., as chief mechanical engineer to the company in 1910. During the War he was appointed Director of Production to the Ministry of Munitions in 1915 and Assistant Director-General of Aircraft Production in 1917, when he was awarded the C.B.E. for his services. He was created a K.B.E. in 1918, in which year he went to America and Canada as Chairman of the first Inter-Allied Conference on the Standardization of Aircraft Components.
On the incorporation of the Midland Railway in 1923 into the London Midland and Scottish Railway he was made deputy chief mechanical engineer, and two years later he succeeded to the position of chief mechanical engineer. He was responsible for the design of the Royal Scot class of 4-6-0 locomotives in 1927 and for an experimental modification of the design in 1930 to accommodate a Schmidt high-pressure boiler. The reorganization of locomotive repairs at Derby was carried out under his supervision. In 1931 Sir Henry was appointed assistant to the vice-president for research and development. He had already been responsible for extensive metallurgical researches into locomotive boilers and crank axles.
His election as president of the Institute of Metals took place in 1932. In the following year he retired from the service of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. Few men have held so many positions of responsibility. His work for The Institution of Mechanical Engineers was typical of his energetic support of all means for the technical advancement of engineering science. He was elected an Associate Member in 1896 and was transferred to Membership in 1897. In 1918 he was elected a Member of Council; he became a Vice-President in 1922 and President in 1927, and he served on the Council as a Past-President in 1928 and 1929. He also served on the Cutting Tools, Welding, and Research Advisory Committees. In 1932 he was elected an Honorary Life Member.
He read a notable paper on "The Lighting of Railway Premises" in 1906, one on "Chisels" in 1916, and a paper on "Superheating" in 1921; and he delivered the Annual Lecture to the Graduates' Section, London, in 1922. He was also a Member of Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Sir Henry always took a warm-hearted interest in the education of young engineers and was a member of the governing body of the Midland Institute, Derby. From 1912 to 1914 he was president of the University of Birmingham Engineering Society, and at the same university he received his LL.D. degree in 1927. He also held the honorary degree of D.Sc. from the University of Manchester, of which he was the first honorary graduate from the Manchester College of Technology.
He keenly supported the International Railway Congress Association, and acted as joint general secretary in 1925, at the London meeting, and was a member of the permanent commission. In 1923 he was president of the Engineering Section of the British Association, which subsequently appointed a committee, of which he was chairman, to investigate the possibility of reducing noise in mechanically propelled vehicles, and in 1934 he was made chairman of a similar committee appointed by the Minister of Transport.
Sir Henry's death occurred at his home, Spondon Hall, Derby, on 16th October 1938.