Dowie was born in Edinburgh and emigrated to Australia with his family when he was 13 years old. When he was 20, in 1868, he returned to Edinburgh University to study theology in preparation to enter the ministry, returning to Australia three years later.
On April 1st, 1872 he took on the pastorate of the Congregational Church in Alma, and in Manly Beach the following year. In 1875 he moved to a church in Newton where he became convinced of the possibility of divine healing. In 1878 he left the Congregational Church and began an independent ministry based firstly in Sydney and then in Melbourne. In 1888 he moved to the United States and established his ministry in Evanston, Ill. The work steadily grew as people experienced personal healing. He founded, in 1896, the Christian Catholic Apostolic Church, with himself as First Apostle.
Dowie was intensely evangelistic and passionate about divine healing. His early meeting halls were filled with the crutches, braces, and other medical devices that his followers no longer needed because they had been miraculously cured. Dowie published his followers' healing testimonials in a weekly publication titled ‘Leaves of Healing.’ He also stressed consecration and holiness. While Dowie's ministry predated the contemporary revival of Pentecostalism, many of his followers became influential figures in the Pentecostal revival in the early years of the twentieth century.
In 1900, he announced plans for the establishment of Zion, Illinois: a city to be free from the evil influences of modern society. This community grew to around 6,000 during the following years. The same year Dowie visited England and Polly Wigglesworth was baptised in water while visiting meetings held in London by the noted healing restorationist from Zion City in America. (Leaves of Healing, Nov 3rd 1900, p. 64). Here she was clearly influenced by the message of healing which was later taken up by her husband..
In 1903, he held a two-week evangelistic healing campaign in Madison Square Garden in New York City. In 1904, he conducted an "Around the World" campaign, preaching in many countries and cities of the world. In 1906, he suffered a debilitating stroke and died in his beloved city of Zion in 1907.
Bibliography: E. L. Blumhofer art. 'International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements' 2002.; Gordon Lindsay, John Alexander Dowie,' 1980 reprint.