Military Wiki
John Adams Howell
Born (1840-03-16)March 16, 1840
Died 1918 (aged 77–78)
Place of birth Bath, New York
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1858–1902
Rank USN Rear Admiral rank insignia.jpg Rear Admiral
Battles/wars American 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. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1858, and was promoted to lieutenant in April 1861.[1]

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]


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