Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howe, William (1620-1656)

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HOWE or HOW, WILLIAM (1620–1656), botanist, born in London in 1620, was sent to Merchant Taylors' School on 11 Dec. 1632 (Robinson, Merchant Taylors' School, i. 134). He became a commoner of St. John's College at Oxford in 1637, when eighteen, graduated B.A. in 1641, and M.A. 21 March 1643-4, and entered upon the study of medicine (Wood, Fasti Oxon. ed. Bliss, ii. 2, 58). He took up arms in the king's cause, and for his loyalty was promoted to the command of a troop of horse. On the decline of the royal fortunes he resumed his medical profession, and practised in London, at first living in St. Lawrence Lane, and afterwards in Milk Street, Cheapside, where he died, after a few weeks' illness, on 31 Aug. 1656. By his own directions, he was buried at the left side of his mother, in the churchyard of St. Margaret's, Westminster, at ten o'clock at night. His will was proved by his widow Elizabeth, as sole executrix, on 22 Sept. of that year.

Howe published: 1.'Phytologia Britannica, natales exhibens Indigenarum Stirpium sponte emergentium,' London, 1650, an anonymous octavo of 134 pages, first attributed to Howe by C. Merrett in his 'Pinax,' 1666. It is the earliest work on botany restricted to the plants of this island, and is a very full catalogue for the time. In its compilation he was helped by several friends. 2. 'Matthiæ de Lobel Stirpium illustrationes, plurimas elaborantes inauditas plantas, subreptitiis Joh. Parkinsoni rapsodiis (ex codice insalutato) sparsim gravatæ. … Accurante Guil. How, Anglo,' London, 1655, 4to. The latter was a fragment of a large work planned by Lobel, and seems to have been published to discredit Parkinson, who is vindictively attacked by the editor in his notes, although he had bought the right to use Lobel's manuscript.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 418-19; E. Pulteney's Sketches, i. 169-72; Eegisters, Probate Court, London, and St. Margaret's, Westminster.]

B. D. J.