Biography of John Howard


JOHN HOWARD, "the philanthropist," was born at Hackney, near London, about 1726. From his father who had been engaged in trade Howard inherited a large fortune. In 1756, the year of the great earthquake at Lisbon, urged by motives of benevolence as well as of curiosity, he set sail for that city. On this voyage his vessel was taken by a French privateer, and he was carried into the interior, where he suffered imprisonment for some time. The hardships he here underwent, combined with the knowledge of prisons and the miseries of prison-life which he acquired as a County sheriff in 1773 and afterwards, determined him to devote his life to prison reform. His life hereafter is but a chronicle of his journeyings throughout the United Kingdom and the Continent, in which he visited the principal prisons and hospitals. His chief work is "An Account of the Lazarettos in Europe, etc., with Remarks on the Present State of the Prisons in Great Britain and Ireland" (1789). He died January 20th 1790, at Kherson, in the south of Russia, from having caught infection from a fevered patient, for whom he had Prescribed. The fame of Howard is peculiar. He is remembered not so much for his talents as for his devotion to his suffering fellow-men, in which he expended his fortune and his life.