Luke Howard

Luke Howard was born in 1772 into the Quaker family of Robert and Elizabeth Howard in London. In an incredible life Luke fought against slavery and was also a very generous benefactor to many good causes.

Luke was educated at the Quaker School in Burford, Oxfordshire. He married Mariabella daughter of Quakers John and Mary Eliot and they went on to have 8 children. In 1798 he went into partnership with fellow Quaker and pharmacist William Allen who owned the Plough Court Pharmacy in Lombard Street and was subsequently made responsible for the laboratory in Plaistow. After seven years the partnership was dissolved and Howard moved the laboratory to Stratford, London.

Howard studied both botany and geology but his main interest was in meteorology. He was also a member of the Askesian Society a philosophical group that met fortnightly. He is best known for developing a system of classifying the shape and type of clouds. He named the three principal categories of clouds as well as a series of intermediate and compound modifications. He wrote the first book on English urban climatology entitled ‘The Climate of London’ that introduced new thinking on atmospheric electricity and the cause of rain and investigated the possibility of lunar influence on weather.

Howard has also been dubbed ‘the father of meteorology’ because of his comprehensive recordings of weather in the London area from 1801-1841. He was a deeply religious person and produced tracts upholding the Quaker way of life and became a minister in 1815. He was one of a number of Quakers who had a pivotal role in the fight against slavery and was one of the founder members of the African Institution, a Quaker organisation. The Institution campaigned for the notable ideal of the abolition of the slave trade in other countries. The society sought to improve the lives of African peoples by education and by developing trades in other goods. He was involved with vital campaigns to improve society and joined the campaign to raise support for the relief of distress in Germany following the fighting across Europe and the defeat of Napoleon at Leipzig and became joint secretary of the organizing London committee and by 1844 £300,000 had been raised. He was awarded gold rings and Meissen vases by the Kings of Prussia and Saxony and received the freedom of the city of Magdeburg.

Howard’s generous philanthropic work is well renowned and he played a notable role in the fight against slavery. He is rightly considered crucial in the eventual abolition of slavery in this country.

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