Howard, Luke (1772-1864) (DNB00)

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HOWARD, LUKE (1772–1864), one of the founders of the science of meteorology, was born in London on 28 Nov. 1772. His father, Robert Howard, a manufacturer of iron and tin goods, accumulated considerable wealth. He was especially known as the chief introducer of the Argand lamp. A member of the Society of Friends, he wrote 'A few words on Corn and Quakers,' 1800(4 editions), in that year. From his eighth to his fifteenth year Luke, who was a Friend, like his parents, was at a private school at Burford in Oxfordshire, where (he thought in later life) he learned too much Latin grammar and too little of anything else. At fourteen he was bound apprentice to Olive Sims, a retail chemist, of Stockport. During his apprenticeship he taught himself after business hours, French, botany, and scientific chemistry. In chemistry he was deeply impressed by the works of Lavoisier and his fellow-labourers.

In 1793 Howard commenced business as a chemist in London, near Temple Bar. From 1796 until 1803 he was in partnership, as a wholesale and retail chemist, with William Allen (1770–1843) [q. v.] Howard removed to Plaistow in Essex in order to take charge of the manufacturing department of the concern. After the withdrawal of Allen, the chemical works were removed to Stratford (c. 1805), and in 1812 Howard changed his private residence to Tottenham, at which place or on his estate at Ackworth in Yorkshire he spent the remainder of his life.

Botany was for some time one of Howard's favourite pursuits. On 4 March 1800 he read a paper before the Linnean Society entitled 'Account of a Microscopical Investigation of several Species of Pollen, with Remarks and Questions on the Structure and use of that part of Vegetables' (printed in Linnean Society's Transactions, vol. vi.) The paper shows close observation, and the questions at the end suggest lines of inquiry subsequently pursued with success by others. But 'from the first,' he wrote to Goethe, `my real penchant was towards meteorology. I had fixed in my memory at school one of the modifications which I had settled for the clouds; had proved the expansion of water in freezing, and was much interested by the remarkable summer haze and aurora borealis of 1783' (Goethe, Sämmtliche Werke, v. 409-12, ed. Paris, 1836; the above quotation is from the slightly different draft found among Howard's manuscripts). The appearances here alluded to are mentioned in Cowper's 'Task' and in White's 'Natural History of Selborne.' Howard further records how he 'witnessed the passage from north to south of the stupendous meteor of that year (1783), which travelled, as I conceive, from some part of Iceland to the north of Italy.'

Soon after Howard's settlement at Plaistow he seems to have first methodically studied the shapes of the clouds and the laws of their change. His essay 'On the Modifications of Clouds' he communicated about 1802 to the Askesian Society, a little philosophical club to which both he and Allen belonged. This essay, which was reprinted in his larger work, 'The Climate of London,' gave him his scientific fame. It applies the method of Linnaeus to the varying forms of the clouds. The author defines their three chief modifications, which he names Cirrus, Cumulus, and Stratus, and four intermediate or compound modifications, the best known of which is the Nimbus or rain-cloud. These names have been generally adopted by meteorologists.

In 1806 Howard began to keep a meteorological register, and published the result of his observations in his 'Climate of London' (1818-20). In 1833 a second edition of this work brought down the observations to 1830. Howard's instruments were, from a modern point of view, rude and insufficient; but for the early years of the century his are almost the only observations that have been preserved.

In 1821 Howard was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. Three later books on meteorology did not attract much notice. It remained for younger men (especially under the powerful influence of Humboldt's writings) to perfect the system of observations, and by the aid of the electric telegraph to turn the science to practical account by issuing warnings of approaching storms.

Howard devoted much of his leisure to philanthropic or religious work. He wrote tracts against profane swearing (1811) and on temperance, and the proper treatment of animals, and he edited 'The Yorkshireman, a religious and literary Journal, by a Friend,' from 1833 to 1837 (5 vols. 8vo). As a member of the committee of the Bible Society, he plunged deeply into the controversy regarding the circulation of the Apocrypha, advocating its inclusion in copies of the scriptures printed for distribution in Roman catholic countries, and publishing English translations of the Apocrypha from the Vulgate (4 vols. 1827-9). He was a zealous worker in the anti-slavery cause, and he actively aided the movement for the relief of the German peasants in the districts ravaged by the Napoleonic wars after the retreat from Moscow. He visited Germany to superintend the distribution of the funds raised by himself and his friends, and he received from the kings of Prussia and Saxony and the free city of Magdeburg generous acknowledgments of his exertions.

In 1822 he was engaged in an interesting correspondence with Goethe. The German poet had studied some of Howard's meteorological works, and desired to know something of his personal history. Howard replied with an autobiographical sketch. Goethe in return sent a short poem entitled 'Howard's Ehrengedächtniss,' and a description in verse of the chief cloud-forms according to his correspondent's classification. Howard also maintained a lifelong friendship and correspondence with John Dalton [q. v.]

In 1796 Howard married Mariabella, daughter of John Eliot of London, who published, among other works, 'The Young Servant's own Book,' 1827 (4th edition, 1857). After the death of his wife in 1852, Howard lived with his eldest son, Robert, at Bruce Grove, Tottenham. Here he died, in the ninety-second year of his age, on 21 March 1864. Another son, John Eliot Howard, is separately noticed.

Howard's chief works are: 1. 'The Climate of London, deduced from Meteorological Observations,' &c., 2 vols. London, 1818-20, 8vo; 2nd edit., enlarged and continued to 1830, 3 vols., London, 1833, 8vo. 2. 'Essay on the Modifications of Clouds,' London, 1832, 8vo; 3rd edit., London, 1865, 4to. 3. 'Seven Lectures on Meteorology,' Pontefract, 1837, 8vb. 4. 'A Cycle of Eighteen Years in the Seasons of Britain … from Meteorological Observations,' London, 1842, 8vo. 5. 'Barometrographia: Twenty Years' Variation of the Barometer in … Britain, exhibited in autographic curves,' advocating the theory of a nineteen years' cycle, London, 1847, fol. 6. 'Papers on Meteorology,' &c., London, 1854, 4to.

[Authorities cited; Private information; Smith's Cat. of Friends' Books.]

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