Luke Howard (1772-1864)

Luke Howard was born in 1772. He spent much of his life he worked as a retail chemist in London, part of that time in partnership with William Allen.

Luke moved to Tottenham in 1812. He lived in a large house built by William Forster on the corner of what is now Philip Lane and Arnold Road East

Luke Howard is best known as the founder of modern meteorology. He spent many years studying weather and cloud formations. Many of his studies were carried out in his garden in Tottenham. As he was away a lot, Mariabella, his wife took many of the readings from the instruments in the garden.

Naming the clouds

Luke published On the modification of clouds in 1804. In this essay, he outlined a system for classifying the varying forms of the clouds. It is the system that is still in use today.

The climate of London

In 1817, Luke Howard published Climate of London: a day by day account of weather over many years. This book had an influential effect on the painter, John Constable. Up until that time, painters had not really observed cloud patterns closely and their relationship to weather. Constable was so fascinated he made a series of cloud studies.

In 1842, Luke Howard published A cycle of eighteen years in the seasons in Britain. He was trying to understand why weather changes from one year to the next. Careful observations in Ackworth, Yorkshire and at his home in Tottenham revealed a cycle of weather patterns bringing alternate warmth and cold through successive years.

Luke Howard and Goethe

The German poet Goethe was also impressed by Luke’s work. He corresponded with Luke Howard and even wrote a poem dedicated to him.

Luke Howard: philanthropy and religion

Much of Luke Howard’s leisure time was devoted to philanthropic or religious work. He wrote tracts against profane swearing (1811) and on temperance and the proper treatment of animals. He was a zealous worker against slavery. He was a committee member of the Society Against Capital Punishment and the Society Against Cruelty to Animals. He was also a committee member of the African Institution and the Lancasterian School in Borough Road.

Luke helped to raise money to help German refugees of the Napoleonic Wars, earning a medal from the King of Prussia. He also helped the Greeks in their struggle for independence.

In 1828 Luke moved to Ackworth, Yorkshire, but always considered Tottenham his home. He returned to live with his son in Bruce Grove in 1837. Mariabella died in 1852 and Luke in 1864. Both are buried in Tottenham Cemetery. Towards the end of his life he left Quakers to become a Plymouth Brethren.