John Adams Howell

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John Adams Howell
Born(1840-03-16)March 16, 1840
Bath, New York
Died1918 (aged 77–78)
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1858–1902
RankUSN Rear Admiral rank insignia.jpg Rear Admiral
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
Spanish–American War

John Adams Howell (16 March 1840 – 1918) was a rear admiral of the United States Navy, who served during the Civil War and the Spanish–American War. He was also a noted inventor.


Howell was born in Bath, New York, on 16 March 1840 to William and Adelphia Frances Howell. He had four brothers; Edward Augustus Howell, William Howell, Jr. and twin brothers Robert and William Adams that died before their first birthdays. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1858, and was promoted to lieutenant in April 1861.[1] He married Arabelle E. Krause on May 11, 1867 and they had three children: William, Arabella, and Frances.

During the American Civil War, Howell served as executive officer of the steam sloop Ossipee at the Battle of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864, and was honorably mentioned by his commanding officer in his despatches.[1]

Howell was promoted to lieutenant-commander in March 1865, and commander on 6 March 1872.[1]

Howell was an Assistant in the U.S. Coast Survey, and the commanding officer of the Coast Survey steamer A. D. Bache in the early 1870s. The "Howell Basin", in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Cape Cod, and the "Howell Hook", a submerged reef off the coast of southern Florida, are named in his honor.[1]

Howell was promoted to captain on 1 March 1884, and in 1887 was a member of the Naval Advisory Board. He was promoted to rear admiral in 1898.[1] During the Spanish–American War he commanded a division of the North Atlantic Squadron.[2]

Rear Admiral Howell died in 1918.


Howell is remembered less for his wartime achievements than for his innovations in ordnance. He invented the self-steering torpedo—the "Howell torpedo"—and also patented torpedo launchers, gyroscopes for the guidance of torpedoes, explosive shells, a disappearing gun carriage for shore defense emplacement, and an amphibious lifeboat.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e "National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency". Archived from the original (DOC) on 6 June 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  2. ^ "John Adams Howell". Retrieved 19 August 2010.
  3. ^ "US Military Dictionary: John Adams Howell". Retrieved 19 August 2010.

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