Edward Lowbury

1913 - 2007

Edward Lowbury, who died at the age of 93, was one of the comparatively few OASIS poets who was a published and recognised poet before the Second World War began. He would write one of the iconic poems about the use of the atomic bombs on Japan in 1945; and this poem appeared in three of the anthologies of Second World War poetry produced by the Oasis poets of the Salamander Oasis Trust. It had occupied a pride of place as the last poem in summing-up Poems of the Second World War (1985). And appeared again in The Voice of War the very final Oasis anthology which was in a sense an anthology of the five earlier Oasis books and which was published in 1995.

This poem was entitled "August 10th, 1945 - The Day After" and was written in Kenya, where Lowbury was then serving as a pathologist in the Royal Army Medical Corps with the army in East Africa. The day after referred to in the title of the poem was the day after the dropping of the second atomic bomb - on Nagasaki.

After the war, Lowbury would continue writing poetry while rising to the top of his medical profession as a microbiologist specialising in the prevention of infection in burns.

Edward Joseph Lister Lowbury was born in London in 1913, the son of a doctor, and educated at St.Paul's School and University College, Oxford. He read medicine at Oxford and completed his medical training at the Royal London Hospital just before the war began in 1939.

His career as a poet had also begun at Oxford where he won the Newdigate Prize for poetry in 1934 and the Matthew Arnold Memorial Prize in 1935. His first book of verse Port Meadow was published in 1936.

Joining the R.A.M.C. on the outbreak of war, he would serve mostly in Africa. After the war and his appearance in the Oasis anthologies he published in 1993 his own first collection as Collected Poems 1934-92.

After being demobbed in 1946, Lowbury had worked in the Common Cold Research Unit, before being appointed to the Birmingham Accident Hospital. As his obituary in The Times put it, this appointment was to shape the rest of his life, where he was for 30 years as head of the microbiology department at the Medical Research Council burns unit at Birmingham Accident Hospital.

Lowbury wrote some 200 papers on subjects such as antibiotic resistance, the behaviour of bacteria in burns and wounds, and on disinfection. In the 1960's he travelled widely in the United States as a Medical Research Council Consultant, and contributed to reports and a handbook on Hospital Infection.

As a poet he continued writing and publishing, and was recognised by the Times Literary Supplement as a most versatile and disturbing poet, moving from aphoristic entertainment to poems of old age and suffering.

Microbiologist and poet he was a truly Renaissance Man of the 20th Century.