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Alfred William Howitt (1830–1908)

Alfred William Howitt, 1895

Alfred William Howitt, 1895

State Library of Victoria, IAN01/08/95/4

The death of Dr. A. W. Howitt, C.M.G., D.T., F.R.G.S. (London), F.R.A.I. of Great Britain and Ireland, Fellow of Queen's College, Melbourne member of the Council Melbourne University, geologist, and botanist, removes from our midst one who played a very prominent part in the history of Victoria.

Son of William and Mary Howitt—author and poetess—he was born at Nottingham in 1830. Educated in Germany and at the London University, he came to Victoria in 1852. Like a good many more young men of that time, he was attracted by the goldfields. His first service to the State was as leader of the expedition that found the remains of Burke and Wills. After that he was appointed Police Magistrate and Goldfields Warden in Gippsland. After many years' service there he was appointed Secretary for Mines, and later on one of the Audit Commissioners from which position when over three score years and ten he retired on a well-earned pension. Even then the untiring energy of the man would not let him rest, and he was made one of the commissioners appointed to examine and report on the different sites for the Federal capital. After that he was chairman of the Royal Commission to inquire into the coal industry of the State. As his literary works show, he took great interest in the aborigines of Australia, more particularly those of Gippsland, among whom he lived so long, and whose language he could speak almost as fluently as one of themselves. His heart and purse were always open to them.

It is said that a man is all the better for having a hobby. Dr. Howitt's hobby was carpentering and cabinetmaking, in which he excelled, and many of the homes of his friends have souvenirs of his skill.

Dr. Howitt was a man of great energy and determination, and led an active, strenuous life. His quiet, unassuming, lovable nature endeared him to all who had the privilege of his friendship. It can be truly said of him that the world was better for his having lived. Mrs. Howitt died five years ago. She was a daughter of the late Mr. Justice Boothby, of Adelaide. Two sons and three daughters are left to mourn his loss.

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'Howitt, Alfred William (1830–1908)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 18 June 2024.

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