Luke Howard, FRS

Is your surname Howard?

Research the Howard family

Luke Howard, FRS's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


Related Projects

Luke Howard, FRS

Birthplace: St Luke's Old Street, Middlesex
Death: Died in UK
Place of Burial: WInchmore Hill, Greater London, UK
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Howard and Elizabeth Howard
Husband of Mariabella (Eliot) Howard and Mariabella Howard
Father of Robert Howard; Elizabeth Hodgkin; John Eliot Howard; Robert Howard; Elizabeth Hodgkin and 6 others
Brother of Robert Howard; Elizabeth Howard; William Howard; George Howard; Isaac Howard and 4 others
Half brother of Robert Howard; John Howard and Joseph Howard

Occupation: Chemist and an amateur Meteorologist
Managed by: Jonathan Evans
Last Updated:

About Luke Howard, FRS

See for a memoir regarding Luke Howard's fundamental contributions to meteorology, and his relations with Goethe.

Further details of his correspondence with Goethe can be found in

A daughter of the third John Eliot, Mariabella (1769-1852) married a son of Robert Howard, Luke (1772.-1864), who eventually inherited most of the Eliot Property and was also a scientist of some note. Luke Howard served his apprenticeship with a chemist, Olive Sims, in Cheshire (see Nos. 1372-1377) and later founded a chemical manufacturing business at Plaistow (later moved to Stratford) in Essex, at first in conjunction with William Allen and then for a few years with Joseph Jewell. There are occasional references to the laboratory and to chemical experiments in Luke's letters and diaries. The firm, latterly known as Howards and Son's Ltd. ,is now merged in Laporte industries ltd., who have deposited the early records of the Howard business in the archives. (Middlesex Section) under accession Number 1037. Luke Howard, a member of the Askesian Society and elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1821, was especially known for his work in meteorology and for formulating the nomenclature of the clouds ( the familiar "cirrus", "nimbus", etc. ) Amongst other works he published in 1818 "The Climate Of London" (a copy of the enlarged 2nd. edition, 1833, is in the LMA library). he often noted weather conditions and barometer readings in his pocket diaries (see Nos. 1397 - 1406). This practice was also done regularly by an Eliot ancestor, Peter Briggins, in his diaries (see No. 2) Luke and Mariabella Howard lived at Plaistow near the laboratory when their children were young. Mariabella kept meticulous household accounts (Nos. 1394-1396). and also wrote charming letters to her husband and brother, mainly about the children. The eldest son was lively and needed a strict hand. At seven years old he helped his mother to bottle a cask of sweet wine, but "he tasted a little more wine...[and] a good deal of sugar off Mary's pies...and poor fellow he has smarted for his naughty tricks" (no. 1431). Mother was indulgent, but fatherrecommended a rhubarb pill daily to cure his sweet tooth, and his grandfather insisted that he should not be allowed near the fishponds when visiting the cousins at Aspley. Two of the sons followed early in their father's footsteps (Robert carried on the business, John became F.R.S) and as children on their seaside holidays at Folkestone they collected fossils, and seaweed to use as a hygrometer, while their sisters enjoyed bathing. While on such a holiday at Folkestone in 1812, Luke himself was questioned by armed men who were searching for a French General thought to be hiding in the neighbourhood. (No. 1643). The daughters attended Quaker schools in Isleworth and Tottenham. There is no mention of the sons ' schooling, but they may have attended the Quaker public school at Ackworth near Pontefract, Yorkshire, a school in which John Eliot (who lent money to the trustees) and Luke Howard were interested. Pontefract was the home of Luke Howards maternal relations, the Leathams. Later Luke purchased "The Villa" at Ackworth, which became his chief home (although there are no deeds of this property amongst his collection). Before moving to Ackworth, Luke Howard lived for a short time at Tottenham, Middlesex, and his son Robert lived there after his marriage to Rachel Lloyd, daughter of the Birmingham banker

The Man Who Named the Clouds

Take a look out the window. Are there any clouds in the sky today? Can you name them? Today, most of us are familiar with the names of the basic cloud types: stratus, cumulus, cirrus. But here's another name...Luke Howard. Probably never heard of him, right? Well, he's the Man Who Named the Clouds.

Luke Howard, F.R.S.- From a Painting by John Opie

Born in London in 1772, Luke Howard had a love for weather and clouds from the start. He was never trained as a meteorologist, making his living as a manufacturer of chemicals, but he made a lasting impression on weather watchers everywhere.

Prior to the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, most weather observers believed clouds were too transient, changeable, and short-lived to be classified or even analyzed. Cloud types were never named; they were just described by their color and form as each observer saw them: dark, white, gray, black, mare's tails or towers.

Howard, however, believed that clouds could be identified by four simple categories within the complexity of cloud forms. Here they are:

Cumulus, Latin for 'heap'; Stratus, Latin for 'layer'; Cirrus, Latin for 'wispy curly hair'; and, Nimbus, Latin for 'rain'.

The basic forms could be combined, thus for example giving us: cumulo nimbus or cirro stratus.

Howard's classification was accepted almost intact by the meteorological community in the early 1800's, with a few additional terms, such as 'alto' meaning 'middle, and it likely won worldwide acceptance because he provided his categories with Latin names, as the great naturalist Linnaeus had done with plants and animals.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Howards Ehrengedächtnis

Wenn Gottheit Camarupa, hoch und hehr,

Durch Lüfte schwankend wandelt leicht und schwer,

Des Schleiers Falten sammelt, sie zerstreut,

Am Wechsel der Gestalten sich erfreut,

Jetzt starr sich hält, dann schwindet wie ein Traum,

Da staunen wir und traun dem Auge kaum;

Nun regt sich kühn des eignen Bildens Kraft,

Die Unbestimmtes zu Bestimmtem schafft;

Da droht ein Leu, dort wogt ein Elefant,

Kameles Hals, zum Drachen umgewandt,

Ein Heer zieht an, doch triumphiert es nicht,

Da es die Macht am steilen Felsen bricht;

Der treuste Wolkenbote selbst zerstiebt,

Eh er die Fern erreicht, wohin man liebt.

Er aber, Howard, gibt mit reinem Sinn

Uns neuer Lehre herrlichsten Gewinn.

Was sich nicht halten, nicht erreichen läßt,

Er faßt es an, er hält zuerst es fest;

Bestimmt das Unbestimmte, schränkt es ein,

Benennt es treffend! – Sei die Ehre dein! –

Wie Streife steigt, sich ballt, zerflattert, fällt,

Erinnre dankbar deiner sich die Welt.


Wenn von dem stillen Wasserspiegelplan

Ein Nebel hebt den flachen Teppich an,

Der Mond, dem Wallen des Erscheins vereint,

Als ein Gespenst Gespenster bildend scheint,

Dann sind wir alle, das gestehn wir nur,

Erquickt', erfreute Kinder, o Natur!

Dann hebt sich's wohl am Berge, sammelnd breit

An Streife Streifen, so umdüstert's weit

Die Mittelhöhe, beidem gleich geneigt,

Ob's fallend wässert oder luftig steigt.


Und wenn darauf zu höhrer Atmosphäre

Der tüchtige Gehalt berufen wäre,

Steht Wolke hoch, zum herrlichsten geballt,

Verkündet, festgebildet, Machtgewalt

Und, was ihr fürchtet und auch wohl erlebt,

Wie's oben drohet, so es unten bebt.


Doch immer höher steigt der edle Drang!

Erlösung ist ein himmlisch leichter Zwang.

Ein Aufgehäuftes, flockig löst sich's auf,

Wie Schäflein tripplend, leicht gekämmt zu Hauf.

So fließt zuletzt, was unten leicht entstand,

Dem Vater oben still in Schoß und Hand.

[553] Nimbus

Nun laßt auch niederwärts, durch Erdgewalt

Herabgezogen, was sich hoch geballt,

In Donnerwettern wütend sich ergehn,

Heerscharen gleich entrollen und verwehn! –

Der Erde tätig-leidendes Geschick!

Doch mit dem Bilde hebet euren Blick:

Die Rede geht herab, denn sie beschreibt,

Der Geist will aufwärts, wo er ewig bleibt.

Father of meteology - named the clouds. Had 4 children

view all 16

Luke Howard, FRS's Timeline

November 28, 1772
St Luke's Old Street, Middlesex
November 17, 1797
Age 24
June 27, 1801
Age 28
January 26, 1803
Age 30
Plaistow, Essex, UK
Age 31
July 31, 1805
Age 32
August 11, 1806
Age 33
November 11, 1807
Age 34
May 30, 1811
Age 38