Benjamin Francis McDowell resided in Johannesburg around 1897 and for a brief period was a member of the Geological Society of South Africa. In 1905 he became a member of the Rhodesia Scientific Association and later delivered a paper before it entitled "Jottings on a traverse from Tsessebe to Makalahari" (i.e., from Tshesebe, a railway siding north of Francistown, to the Makgadikgadi Pans). The paper was published in the associations Proceedings for 1913-1914.
At some time McDowell was employed in railway construction in Mozambique by the Beira and Mashonaland Railways. He collected the first specimens of a tiny new species of land snail living in the Indian Ocean coastal belt from Zululand to central Mozambique and Malawi. It was named Trachycystis mcdowelli (McDowell's pinwheel) in his honour, by Major M. Connolly* in 1922.