Paul W. Bowman, 81, professor emeritus of biology at George Washington University since 1962, died Nov. 17 at National Orthopaedic Hospital in Arlington. He suffered from phlebitis.

Dr. Bowman, who lived at The Hermitage in Alexandria, joined the university in 1924 as an assistant instructor in botany. He established the biology department in 1934, and was its chairman until retiring in 1962. He taught cytology and organic evolution.

During World War II, he was a special assistant to the president of GWU for the school's scientific program for the national defense effort. He was administrative director of the Allegheny Ballictics Laboratory in West Virginia, where rocketry was developed for the Army.

From 1958 to 1962, Dr. Bowman held a research grant from the National Cancer Institute. After retiring from GWU, he was a coordinator in the research grants branch, division of general medical sciences at the National Institutes of Health, until 1974.

He was born in Reading, Pa. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, he earned a master's degree from George Washington and a decorate from the University of Virginia.

Dr. Bowman was a member of the Botanical Society of Washington, the Washington Academy of Science, the Virginia Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Association of University Professors.

He belonged to Columbia Lodge 285 of the Masons and Clarendon United Church.

He is survived by a daughter, Christine Hewlett, of Vienna, Va.; a brother, Walter H., of Collingdale, Pa., and two grandchildren.