Bill Cowan.

It is with great sadness that we learnt of the death of one of our former colleagues – Bill Cowan.

Bill Cowan passed away on June 3rd after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. He died peacefully and painlessly with his three sons by his bedside.

Bill Cowan (right) with colleagues Patrick van Sleight and Gamieda Gierdien in 2003.

Colleagues and friends remember him as a man of integrity and intelligence; an immensely creative thinker who balanced elegant and relevant research with a deep commitment to helping the poor.
Bill Cowan joined Anton Eberhard in creating the Energy and Development Research Centre (EDRC – a forerunner of the ERC) at the University of Cape Town to lead a group of researchers and students in pioneering research in renewable energy applications that could ameliorate poverty and promote development. Bill was more than an academic though, he had a keen interest in promoting the practical application of research findings (like his algorithm for sizing PV systems) and developing Energy Centres in the Eastern Cape. As one of the early energy researchers in South Africa he undertook trans-disciplinary research which really focused the importance of people and context – not applying-a-one-size fits-all-approach.

Bill is remembered for his sparkling wit, intelligent humour, goodwill and his love of music.

8 thoughts on “Bill Cowan.

  1. Thank you for this tribute. I am deeply distressed and saddened by this news. What a huge gentle genuine intellectual he was

  2. What an amazing soul! He was slow to anger and represented the voice of reason to me while I was at EDRC. I will always remember his soft spoken voice and humility. RIP Bill.

  3. Thank you for sharing this, but it is such sad news. Bill was already a luminary in the SA energy world when I arrived, but what a gentle and wise soul he was. I remember that when we were struggling with challenging issues of personnel, strategy, and development at EDRC, Bill always brought great humanity and integrity to these discussions, no matter how difficult they were.
    A tear is shed in rural Massachusetts for his passing.

  4. I will always remember Bill as a gentleman with a larger than life persona, a very good sense of humor and an extreme intellectual that was totally committed to research focusing on the benefit and upliftment of the poor. It was truly an honour to have worked with and to have known Bill for so many years, My deepest sympathy and condolences to his family, friends and colleagues – He will be sorely missed!!!

  5. What sad news. I remember Bill for his enthusiasm for finding better energy solutions , his patience in dealing with an enthousiastic but ingnorant young engineer who was his counterpart in the Dept of Energy and for the most rusted kombi I’ve ever seen.

  6. I was saddened to hear the news of Bill’s passing. Meeting him was one of the highlights of my time working in South Africa in the 1990s. He will be greatly missed.

  7. Condolences; being one of Bill’s contemporaries I am very saddened to hear of the passing of an awesome person and a brilliant mind. Bill used to give me a lift to school in the mornings on his, “trusty old scooter”, quite a sight, the two of us tearing down Matopos Road of a morning. Rest in peace William Cowan.

Comments are closed.