Professor Henry Jacob Cowan AO (nee Hans Jacob Cohn-Salisch) (1919–2007) taught at the University of Sydney from 1953 until 2003. In 1935, aged 15, Cowan had fled Germany for England, where he studied civil and mechanical engineering. With the outbreak of war he was sent to an internment camp in Canada. Returning to the United Kingdom, Cowan taught in universities and was closely involved in the rapidly expanding field of building technology. In 1953 he accepted the newly created post of Chair of Architectural Science at the University of Sydney. He remained head of the department until 1984.
Cowan’s arrival in the early 1950s, just as the city’s building height limit was lifted, was significant. A recognised authority on concrete construction, he lectured on structural issues associated with tall buildings and curtain walls. For decades he played a key role in advancing building technology, publishing 25 books and educating hundreds of graduates.