John L. Howland, 73: Bowdoin professor, prolific researcher

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HARPSWELL — John L. Howland, Ph.D., 73, died Oct. 18 at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick.

He was born in Quincy, Mass., on Dec. 14, 1935, the son of Graton G. and Mary H. (LaFollette) Howland.

In 1957 he graduated cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Bowdoin College.

He attended Yale University Medical School, and then Harvard, where he received his doctorate in 1961. After completing a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Amsterdam, he began his career at Bowdoin as an assistant professor of biology in 1963. By 1971 he had helped create a separate biochemistry department. In 1977 he was named to the Josiah Little professorship, which he held until his retirement in 2002.

Over the years at Bowdoin, he served as chair of the biology department, was active in the Senior Center program, served as the faculty representative to Bowdoin’s Board of Trustees and Board of Overseers.

He was best known for his research into the causes of muscular dystrophy and the cell biochemistry of genetic disorders. In 1964 he appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon to explain his research, which led to a new theory of the causes of muscular dystrophy as a genetic defect. In 1974 the scientific publication “Current Science” lauded his research as opening a “brand-new front” against the disease.

He was the author of three textbooks, “Introduction to Cell Physiology,” “Cell Physiology,” and “Environmental Physiology,” and co-author of “A Mathematical Approach to Biology.” In 2000 he authored “The Surprising Archaea: Discovering a New Domain of Life.” Throughout his career he had many articles published in professional journals and received numerous grants for his research. He was also awarded a U.S. Public Health Service Research Career Development Award.

His other interests included gardening, fishing and birding.

Survivors include his wife of 48 years, Cynthia (Birge) Howland of Harpswell; two children, Ethan Howland and his wife Daphne of Portland, and Hannah Judson and her husband, Bruce of Chartrettes, France; a sister, Jane Howland of Marthasville, Mo.; and five grandchildren, Esme Howland, Phoebe Howland and Elspeth Howland, all of Portland, and Turner “Jupiter” Judson, and Gemma Judson, both of France.

A memorial service will be held at 12 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2, at the Bowdoin College Chapel in Brunswick.

Memorial donations can be made to Emmaus Homes, Marthasville Campus, 11900 Emmaus Drive, Marthasville, MO 63357.

Arrangements are by Brackett Funeral Home, 29 Federal St., Brunswick, ME.

Condolences can be expressed at

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