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Hugh Lionel Fowler (1891–1946)

by Alan Richardson

This article was published:

Hugh Lionel Fowler (1891-1946), psychologist, was born on 5 October 1891 at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England, elder son of Henry Silas Fowler, tailor, and his wife Rosette, née Stone. He arrived in Western Australia aged 5 and was educated at state schools, the High School (now Hale) and the Teachers' Training College at Claremont. He taught until 1913 when he began studying philosophy and English at the new University of Western Australia (B.A., 1916). He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in 1915 as a private in the 44th Battalion, was commissioned in May 1916 and in January 1918 was promoted captain; he was wounded twice.

Fowler remained in England after the war; by 1920, when he returned to an appointment as lecturer in psychology at his old teachers' college, he had obtained first-class certificates in general and experimental psychology from University College, London, and experience in clinical and industrial psychology. On 6 April 1922 at the Wesley Church, Bunbury, Western Australia, he married Winifred Vicary Finch, a teacher. He completed an M.A. in 1924 and, restless and ambitious, returned to England. In 1927 he obtained a teacher's diploma from the University of London and a diploma of education from the University of Oxford. Next year he was awarded a Ph.D. in psychology from London.

Fowler then returned to Western Australia as principal lecturer at Claremont and part-time lecturer in psychology within the philosophy department at the university. In 1930 this department was split and he became lecturer in charge of the independent psychology department. He built a department with facilities and equipment for practical work 'far in advance of most other Psychology departments in the British Commonwealth at that time'. It offered a degree in psychology available in both arts and science faculties, and required practical work to be taken in all undergraduate courses. It was the first Australian psychology department with these two characteristics. In 1936 a Carnegie Corporation travel grant enabled Fowler 'to see how psychology was taught and applied' in the United States of America and Britain. In 1934-35 and 1940-41 he was warden of convocation at the university where he sought to play an active part in university politics, but he was easily ruffled by colleagues who did not share his faith in psychology. In 1943 he became a fellow of the British Psychological Society and from 1938 he was associate professor.

Soon after the outbreak of World War II Fowler enlisted in the army but in 1941, while serving in Australia, he was discharged due to acute bronchitis and asthma. He re-enlisted in May 1942 to establish the Australian Army Psychology Service in Melbourne as deputy assistant adjutant general (psychology) with the rank of temporary major and was promoted to major in September. In November ill health again obliged him to retire. He returned to academic work until his death on 27 May 1946. Fowler was survived by his wife, two daughters and a son and buried in the Anglican section of Karrakatta cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • D. P. Mellor, The Role of Science and Industry (Canb, 1958)
  • F. Alexander, Campus at Crawley (Melb, 1963)
  • Australian Journal of Psychology, 10 (1958), p 7
  • West Australian, 29 May 1946
  • personal file 2393 (University of Western Australia Archives)
  • private information.

Citation details

Alan Richardson, 'Fowler, Hugh Lionel (1891–1946)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 13 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 October, 1891
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, England


27 May, 1946 (aged 54)

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