Cowan, Adrian William David (1919–96), dentist, was born 26 August 1919 in Dublin, eldest among four sons and two daughters of Alfred Cowan (fl.1890s–1960s), dentist, and ‘Lib’ (Elizabeth?) Cowan (née Nurock). He was educated in Dublin at St Andrew’s College (1928–34), Sandford Park school (1934–6), and TCD, graduating BA (1939), B.Dent.Sc. (1941), MB, B.Ch., BAO (1943) (Dubl.); he was later elected a fellow in dental surgery of the RCS (England) (1950), and a fellow of the faculty of dentistry of the RCSI (1963).
He developed a large dental practice and was appointed visiting dental surgeon and chief of the department of periodontology of the Dublin Dental Hospital, and consultant oral surgeon at the Royal City of Dublin Hospital (1957), the National Children's Hospital (1950), and Mercer's Hospital (1964), Dublin. A greatly respected teacher, he emphasised the importance of medical principles in the practice of dentistry; he taught at the Incorporated Dental Hospital in Ireland and was lecturer and examiner (1951–64) in dental surgery at the RCSI, where he was elected a foundation fellow when the faculty of dentistry was introduced in 1963, becoming its first vice-dean (1963–6) and subsequently dean (1966–9).
He undertook clinical dental research, made several films, and contributed over forty publications to professional journals, lectured throughout the world, and established an international career. He was elected a member of the Fauchard Academy and hon. member of the American Dental Association and of the International Association of Dental Research – an award bestowed on only a few dentists throughout the world. Member of the Consultative Council on Fluoridation (1956–8), he was elected president of the odontological section of RAMI (1957–9) and of the Irish Dental Association (1977–8), and was member, vice-chairman, and chairman of the Fédération Dentaire Internationale commission on dental education (1964–70). Other honours included his election to fellowship of RAMI, the American College of Dentists (1966), the British Association of Oral Surgeons, and the International College of Dentists.
He lived at 62 Merrion Rd., Ballsbridge, Dublin. Open-hearted, he was always available to give help and advice. A delightful after dinner speaker, he enjoyed travel, music, art, playing golf, and family life. During his last years he suffered from Parkinson’s disease. He died 18 November 1996 at the Blackrock Clinic, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, and was buried at the Jewish cemetery, Dolphin's Barn, Dublin. He married (1943) Phyllis Boland; they had two sons and two daughters. His son Peter, FDSRCS (Edinburgh) and FFDRCSI, served as dean of the faculty of dentistry, RCSI.