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Biographical entry Howitt, Alfred William (1830 - 1908)

C.M.G., D.Sc.(Hon.), F.R.G.S.

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    Eucalyptus muelleriana A.W.Howitt (1891), Yellow Stringybark, detail of bark, 23 January 2013

17 April 1830
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
7 March 1908
Bairnsdale, Victoria, Australia
Anthropologist, Botanical collector, Botanist, Explorer, Geologist and Naturalist


Alfred Howitt, a colonial public servant, anthropologist and botanist, undertook broad anthropological research into Aboriginal culture and society. Influenced by the evolutionary hypotheses of the era and anthropological theory, he published widely on kinship and marriage. In 1861 he was asked to lead the first expedition to recover the remains of Bourke and Wills, which the party found at Coopers Creek. During his field research he collected botanical specimens and named and collected a type of Eucalyptus. He is commemorated in species of several genera; Ferdinand von Mueller named Acacia howittii (1893) for Alfred Howitt, who collected the type.



Career event - Led an expedition to discover pastoral land near Lake Eyre
1863 - 1889
Career position - Police Magistrate and warden of the goldfields, Gippsland
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus howittiana F. Muell. Was named for Alfred W. Howitt
1889 - 1896
Career position - Victorian Secretary of Mines
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus muelleriana A.W.Howitt
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus muelleriana A.W.Howitt
1896 - 1901
Career position - Audit Commissioner and Member of the Public Service Board, Victoria
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus neglecta Maiden. Howitt was collector of the type or syntype
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus paradoxa Maiden & Blakely. Howitt was collector of type or syntype material
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus obliqua L'Herit. var. discocarpa Blakely. Howitt was collector of type or syntype material
Taxonomy event - Eucalyptus baxteri (Benth.) Maiden & Blakely var. pedicellata Maiden & Blakely. Howitt collected the type or syntype

Related People

Archival resources

Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science

  • Australian Botanists - Biographies, MS 064; Adolph Basser Library, Australian Academy of Science. Details

National Herbarium, Melbourne

  • Alfred William Howitt - Records, 1879 - 1889, MSS M11; National Herbarium, Melbourne. Details

State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection

  • Alfred William Howitt - Records, 1850 - 1906; State Library of Victoria, Australian Manuscripts Collection. Details

Published resources

Encyclopedia of Australian Science Exhibitions


  • Corris, P., Aborigines and Europeans in Western Victoria (Canberra: 1968). Details
  • Gardner, Helen and McConvell, Patrick, Southern anthropology: a history of Fison and Howitt's Kamilaroi and Kurnai (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 329 pp. Details
  • Howitt, A.W., The native tribes of south-east Australia (London: MacMillan & Co., 1904), 819 pp. Details
  • Walker, Mary Howitt, Come wind, come weather : a biography of Alfred Howitt (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 1971), 348 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Stanner, W. E. H., 'Howitt, Alfred William (1830-1908), explorer, natural scientist and pioneer authority on Aboriginal culture and social organization' in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Douglas Pike, ed., vol. 4 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1972), pp. 432-435. Details

Journal Articles

  • 'Alfred William Howitt', Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, 82 (1) (1969), 3-5. Details
  • Blackburn, G., 'William Howitt and Australian Natural History', Victorian Naturalist, 90 (6) (1973), 172-173. Details
  • Frazer, J. G., 'Howitt and Fison', Folk-Lore, 20 (1909). Details
  • Howitt, Alfred William, 'The Eucalypts of Gippsland (with plates)', Transactions of the Royal Society of Victoria, 2 (1) (1890-1891), 81-166. Details
  • Howitt, Alfred William, 'On the Occurrence of Eucalyptus Pulberulenta in Victoria', Report of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science (1898), 517, 522. Details
  • Howitt, Alfred William, 'Notes on the Occurrence of Eucalyptus Maculata in East Gippsland', Vic Naturalist, 13 (1898), 150-252. Details
  • Howitt, M. E. B., 'The Howitts in Australia', Victorian Historical Magazine, 3 (1913). Details
  • Maiden, J.H., 'Records of Victorian Botanists', Victorian Naturalist, 25 (1908), 101-117. Details
  • McComb, Sandra, 'Expanding the Howitt way: Alfred Howitt in Victoria', La Trobe Library Journal, 99 (2017), 6-23. Details
  • Spencer, W. B., 'Alfred William Howitt', Victorian Naturalist, 24 (1908). Details
  • Vallance, T. G., 'Achievement in Isolation: A. W. Howitt, Pioneering Investigator of Metamorphism in Australia', Earth Sciences History, 5 (1) (1986), 39-49. Details
  • Wardlaw, Judy, 'Alfred William Howitt: Scientific Pioneer in Colonial Victoria', Victorian Historical Journal, 68 (1) (1997), 79-83. Details
  • White, Mary E. B., 'Alfred William Howitt, in Her The Howitts in Australia', Victorian Historical Magazine, 3 (1913), 16-24. Details


See also

  • Science and the making of Victoria, with Royal Society of Victoria, 2001, Details
  • Hall, Norman, Botanists of the Eucalypts: short biographies of people who have named eucalypts, whose names have been given to species or who have collected type material (Melbourne: CSIRO, 1978), 101 pp. Details
  • Nobbs, Chris, 'Talking into the Wind: Collectors on the Cooper River, 1890-1910' in The Makers and Making of Indigenous Australian Museum Collections, Peterson, Nicolas, Allen, Lindy and Hamby, Louise, eds (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2009), pp. 206-34. Details

Digital resources

Eucalyptus muelleriana A.W.Howitt (1891), Yellow Stringybark, detail of bark
23 January 2013
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne


Gavan McCarthy, Christine Moje & Neville Walsh