Howitt, Godfrey (Dr) 1800 – 1873

Godfrey Howitt was born in Heanor, Derbyshire on the 8th October, 1800 – the youngest of six brothers. His father and mother were members of the Society of Friends.

He qualified in Medicine at Edinburgh University and married Phoebe Bakewell in 1831, at the Friends’ Meeting House at Castle Donington.

He worked at Nottingham Infirmary and General Hospital for some years, and during that time botanised actively throughout Nottinghamshire. This resulted in his “Nottinghamshire Flora” – which was published in 1839.  There is a possibility that this was hurriedly prepared for publication prior to his departure to Australia, as there is no preface or introduction.  The flora listed some 1137 species – see below.

snippet from Victoria History of the County of Nottinghamshire

A number of his botanical collections from this time may be viewed at the herbaria@home website – see http://tinyurl.com/6n4btho

Howitt was a member of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh, and a founding member of the Entomological Society of London.

Godfrey Howitt left for Australia in 1839, together with his brother Richard – arriving at Port Phillip in 1840.   Richard published a number of volumes of poetry (1830, 1840 & 1868).  Howitt worked at the Melbourne Hospital for many years and was a member of the Council of Melbourne University and the Medical School Committee.  He was a member of the Philosophical Institute of Victoria, and then the Royal Society of Victoria. Apart from his botanical knowledge, he was a keen entomologist.

He left his entomological collection to the university on his death (plus his botanical books, and a £1000).  Howitt became interested in Spiritualism.

  In his later years, he did not enjoy the best of health and he died on 4th December, 1873 – at Caulfield where he had lived for some time.  von Mueller named a lavender-blue flowered mallow – Howittia (a monotypic genus) after him – in recognition of his various contributions to science.  The plant is native to moist, well-drained gullies of coastal Victoria and NSW.

The Howitt family and its influence in C19th Australia is discussed in a doctoral thesis “the Howitts, artistic and intellectual philanthropists in early Melbourne Society”, that may be found here.

Footnote : there is an interest comment in the  Victoria History of the County of Nottinghamshire (p.43) about the relationship between Howitt, H C Watson and Thomas H Cooper.

Copper was later to become physician to the Great Western and Metropolitan railways.  Dr. David Allen has written more extensivley about Cooper in the ODNB.

 

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