Posts Tagged ‘Luke Howard’

Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Askesian Society
1796 – 1807

Askesian Society was a debating club for scientific thinkers in London.

The name was taken from the Greek term Askesis, meaning ‘training’ or ‘application’.

Founded on 23 March 1796 in London.

It was founded by William Allen, who allowed the use of his laboratory at No. 2 Plough Court for the Society’s scientific experiments. The other two principal founders were Richard Phillips and William Haseldine Pepys, both Quakers from the Lombard Street area.

The club was formed to fill the void after the departure of Bryan Higgins and his chemistry lectures.
Members had to present a paper or pay a fine, which led to Luke Howard’s 1802 presentation On The Modification of Clouds, which established the still used terms “stratus,” “cumulus,” and “cirrus.”

They often held theatres for “laughing gas evenings”, where members would watch as fellows would sup nitrous oxide and stumble around the stage.

The Society disbanded in 1807, with many of its members going on to join the Mineralogical Society, the Geological Society, the Linnean Society, and the Royal Society of London.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Luke Howard
28 November 1772 – 21 March 1864


Luke Howard

Howard was born in London, the son of Robert Howard, a lamp manufacturer. He was educated at the Quaker school in Burford. A Quaker, he later converted to the Plymouth Brethren, and became a pharmacist by profession. (DWW-Go Pharmacists! My father practiced as a pharmacist for over 50 years just retiring in December of 2012 before his 80th birthday!)

After serving an apprenticeship with a pharmacist in Stockport, Howard set up his own pharmacy in 1793. Around 1797 he went into partnership with William Allen to form Allen and Howard. A factory was opened on at Plaistow. The partnership was dissolved in 1807. The company became Howards and Sons.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1821.

He married Mariabella Eliott and they had several children including John Eliot Howard, FRS, chemist and botanist.
Luke Howard has been called “the father of meteorology” because of his comprehensive recordings of weather in the London area from 1801 to 1841. His writings transformed the science of meteorology. Howard had an earlier interest in botany, presenting a paper ‘Account of a Microscopical Investigation of several Species of Pollen, …‘ published in the Linnean Society’s Transactions for 1802.

In his late twenties, he wrote the Essay on the Modification of Clouds 1803. He named the three principal categories of clouds – cumulus, stratus, and cirrus, as well as a series of intermediate and compound modifications, such as cirrostratus and stratocumulus.

Howard was not the first to attempt a classification of clouds, but Howard’s system was successful. By applying Linnean principles of natural history classification to phenomena as short-lived as clouds, Howard arrived at an elegant solution to the problem of naming transitional forms in nature.

Howard contributed numerous papers on other meteorological topics. He was a pioneer in urban climate studies, publishing The Climate of London. He also demolished James Hutton’s theory of rain. For Rees’s Cyclopaedia he contributed articles on Meteorology.

Howard’s cloud classification had a major influence on the arts as well as on science. His classification of clouds was later adopted by Ralph Abercromby and Hugo Hildebrand Hildebrandsson, who developed and popularised the system laid out by Howard.

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