Australia Group bids farewell to John Fowler

2 February 2011

The Australia Group is sad to report the passing of its Secretary/Treasurer, John Fowler, on 20 January  2011 after a prolonged illness. He was 79.

John graduated from the University of Sydney in the early 1950s with a science degree majoring in chemistry and started work with Beetle Elliot Plastics Pty Ltd, one of the first Australian producers of plastic moulding powders. He subsequently took up employment with Monsanto Australia Pty Ltd in Melbourne, moving there with his small but growing family. Monsanto later became Chemplex Ltd before being sold to Huntsman: its major activities in Australia included the production of styrene and polystyrene, other phenol derivatives and herbicides. John was involved in most facets of the business over his long and distinguished career with the company, holding at various times senior technical, production and commercial positions. In the latter part of his career, John’s primary responsibility was Business Development, and following his retirement continued to work as a consultant to the chemical industry, and became involved in a number of projects, one of which was the safe destruction of obsolete armaments and explosives. Until very recently, he co-supervised post graduate students at Victoria University carrying out research into various aspects of this technology.

When he was well into his 70s, John commenced a PhD at Swinburne University of Technology, carrying out research into the early years of the Australian pharmaceutical industry. Sadly he was unable to complete his studies. John played a very active role in the Society of Chemical Industry in Victoria (SCIV, established independently in 1900) and was instrumental in merging the SCIV into the SCI in 1999. For his long and meritorious contributions to the work of the two societies, John was awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the SCI in 2003. At the well attended memorial service for John, held in St Luke’s Uniting Church, Mount Waverley on 25 January, friends and family spoke of John’s involvement in Freemasonry, the Uniting Church, the Charles Dickens Society, and the SCI. Reference was also made to John’s extensive travels, and his comprehensive knowledge of railways around the world. It was said that one of his favourite recordings was that of a steam engine undertaking one of the long climbs in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney.

John is survived by his wife Barbara of 54 years, five children and ten grandchildren. John was a fine gentleman, kind and thoughtful, excellent company and full of wisdom. He will be sadly missed.

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