About John F. McGowan, Ph.D.


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I am occasionally asked if I am some other John McGowan or if I am any relative of another John McGowan. Many people know or know of other John McGowan's. I've even received an e-mail intended for a different John McGowan who has also worked in the field of MPEG digital video!

John McGowan is a very common Scottish and Irish name. Gowan is the Scottish and Irish word for "blacksmith". The Mc or Mac prefix means "son of". Thus, in olden days, anyone who was the son of a smith was a McGowan. Scotland had and has many John McGowans, the equivalent of John Smith. After the English took over Scotland, they standardized family names in Scotland to make it easier to tax the Scots, incidentally forcing the McGowan name to be passed on to future generations independent of occupation. The John McGowan name is also found among the Gaels, the usually Catholic Irish, in Ireland. It is also found amongst the Protestants in Northern Ireland for reasons explained below. The Scottish and Irish were two of the major ethnic groups to settle in the United States.

The John McGowan name appears to be especially common among the Scotch-Irish in the United States. The Scotch-Irish are descendants of Scots who settled in Northern Ireland and later emigrated to the United States during the 1700's and 1800's. The Scotch-Irish made up a significant proportion of the population at the time of the American Revolution. Subsequent waves of emigration occured during the 1800's, probably coincident with the potato famines and other problems in Northern Ireland. Thus there are many John McGowans in the United States.

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