Retired teacher awarded MBE in ceremony at Eastbourne home


A retired teacher from Eastbourne has been awarded an MBE in a special ceremony at his own home for his work to combat Malaria.

Dennis Fowler was awarded the honour for his extensive work on African botany, which has proven essential reading to botanists working in Zambia

Unable to attend a ceremony at Westminster Palace, Mr Fowler and his family were visited by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Peter Field.

Mr Fowler said, “It was very exciting. As we were unable to go to the palace on December 10 so the Lord Lieutenant came to our front room.”

The award, for services to botanical research and the preservation of the Ila people’s culture, came after recommendations from some of the country’s most respected botanists including Dr Paul Smith and Dr Olwen Grace.

Dr Olwen Grace, research leader at Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, said, “Dennis is highly regarded by his peers in the botanical community for his work documenting the uses of African plants.

“The contributions for which he has been recognised with this award are all the more exceptional because he never received formal training in botany or anthropology.

“Documenting the uses of plants is of great importance in understanding where valuable resources should be allocated for research and conservation, and thus Dennis’ work has wider benefits to science and society generally.”

Despite not having any formal training as a botanist, Mr Fowler was moved to write about traditional fever cures after witnessing the severity of malaria during his time as a methodist missionary in Zambia (then known as Northern Rhodesia) between 1955 and 1966.

While here Mr Fowler began to learn some of the language of the Ila, which has formed the basis of his work.

He contracted the disease himself as while working in Africa suddenly being struck by fever while riding his motorcycle across county.

His experiences led him to want to help in the search for a cheap local cure for malaria

Mr Fowler began his first major work – Zambian Plants: Their Vernacular Names and Uses – shortly before retiring as a secondary school teacher.

Since its publication in 2007 the book has become essential reading for ethnobotanists working in Zambia.

His work has also seen him named as a member of the Linnean Society for botanists.

Photo courtesy of ©

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