Max McGowen received his BS degree in zoology and MS degree in Biology from Indiana State University in 1937 and 1938, respectively. He was an instructor at Indiana State from 1938-1942. From 1942 to 1946, he was in the Navy and worked in the area of tropical diseases.
Max joined Eli Lilly as a research associate in 1946. He served as Senior Parasitologist and Department Head from 1947 to 1965. From 1965 to 1971, he was head of Parasitology and Chemotherapy for Eli Lilly International in England. From 1971 until 1983, he was a research Scientist in Plant Sciences for Eli Lilly in Greenfield, Indiana. During this time, he was responsible for aquatic herbicide screening. He was responsible for determining aquatic herbicidal activity of fluridone. From 1983 until his retirement in 1985, he was a research Scientist in Environmental Biology at Greenfield.
Max is a member of Alpha Phi Omega fraternity and the Fraternal Order of Masons.
Max has been an active member of the Aquatic Plant Management Society since 1971 and has served on various committees. He served on the Board of Directors and as President in 1985. In 1995, the Society established the Max McCowen Friendship Honor to be bestowed on worthy members in remembrance of Max.