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George and Florence Cowan

George Cowan was born in 1916 in Manitoba, Canada, where he spent his youth. He received his B.A. degree from McMaster University (Brandon College), a Master's degree in theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, and a Master's degree in linguistics at the University of North Dakota.


Florence Cowan (1915-1997) grew up in Inglewood, California, and graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1936. She began studying languages in Mexico in the same year.


George y Florence Cowan

In 1942 George went to Mexico to live, and soon met and married Florence. Shortly thereafter he began to learn the Mazatec language spoken in Huautla de Jiménez, where Florence had already been living. George and Florence published various technical papers about the language and culture, including a description of the now famous whistle speech that the Mazatec people have utilized, and facts relating to the use of the hallucinogenic mushroom. (See the SIL bibliography for detailed information on publications by George and Florence.) They collaborated with Mazatec colleagues in translating the New Testament into Mazatec (published in 1961).

George y Florence Cowan

George and Florence Cowan were key people in developing and directing SIL linguistic training programs in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. George was director of SIL in Mexico from 1951 to 1953, and was President of Wycliffe Bible Translators International from 1956 to 1981.


George and Florence's three children were all born in Mexico and lived with them in the Mazatec area.