Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Howlett, Samuel Burt

HOWLETT, SAMUEL BURT (1794–1874), surveyor and inventor, only son of Samuel Howlett of Gracechurch Street, London, and grandson of John Howlett of the Hall, Pulham St. Mary the Virgin, Norfolk, was born on 10 July 1794. He entered the corps of Royal Military Surveyors and Draughtsmen as cadet on 20 Aug. 1808, and became a favourite pupil of John Bonnycastle, the mathematician [q. v.] Howlett at the age of fourteen drew the diagrams for the fourth edition of Bonnycastle's Euclid. On becoming a commissioned officer he surveyed single-handed parts of Berkshire and Wiltshire for the ordnance survey. The corps being reduced in 1817, after the peace, he was on half-pay until 1824, when he was appointed assistant, and in 1830 chief military surveyor and draughtsman to the board of ordnance. In 1826 he was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and in 1828 he published an ingenious treatise on perspective. As inspector of scientific instruments for the war department he was led to make improvements in the mountain barometer and in the stadiometer then used at the School of Musketry. He also invented an anemometer, and a method of construction, now widely adopted, for large drawing-boards, with compensations for moisture and temperature. Several papers written by him on these inventions and on cognate subjects were published in the 'Professional Papers of the Royal Engineers.'

From early manhood he spent much time in promoting church schools and in charitable work among the poor. He retired at the age of seventy-one, and died at Bromley in Kent on 24 Jan. 1874.

His elder son, the Rev. Samuel Howlett, B.A. Cambr. (d. 1861), was mathematical lecturer at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. His younger son, Richard Howlett, F.S.A., is one of the editors of the Rolls series of Chronicles.

[Private information.]

W. R.