Howard, John (1753-1799) (DNB00)

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HOWARD, JOHN (1753–1799), mathematician, born in Fort George garrison, near Inverness, in 1753, was son of Ralph Howard, a private soldier, and was brought up by relations in Carlisle. Apprenticed in his fourteenth year to his uncle, a cork-cutter, who treated him harshly, he ran away to sea; he afterwards worked as a carpenter, and then as a flax-dresser. Having acquired a taste for reading and the elements of mathematics, he opened a school near Carlisle, and, improving himself by study, attracted the attention of Bishop Law, who appointed him master of the Carlisle grammar school, and encouraged him to read for holy orders. Abandoning that scheme, Howard became steward to the bishop's son John [q. v.], when appointed bishop of Clonfert in 1782. In 1786 Howard returned to Carlisle, and resumed school-teaching there until 1794, when he removed to Newcastle-on-Tyne. There he rented the school-house built by Dr. Charles Hutton [q.v.] in Westgate Street, and gained a fair position as instructor and many friends. He had some local reputation as a versifier. Soon after the appearance of his long-projected work on spherical geometry, his health rapidly declined. He died on 26 March 1799, aged 46, at the Leazes, near Newcastle, and was buried in St. John's churchyard.

When in Carlisle, Howard wrote much for the 'Ladies and Gentlemen's Diaries.' His reputation as a mathematician rests mainly on the 'Treatise on Spherical Geometry,' which he published in Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1798. It deals with the maxima and minima of certain lines and areas, and sets a variety of problems. When discussing some loci of spherical angles and triangles, and certain lines drawn on spherical and cylindrical surfaces, the author notes many analogies between the properties of lines meeting on the surface of the sphere and those drawn to meet a plane circle. The epitaph on Howard's tombstone records 'many other ingenious mathematical and poetical pieces.'

[Richardson's Table Book, ii. 410; Mackenzie's Account of Newcastle-on-Tyne, ii. 350, 465.]

R. E. A.