Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen bigraphy, stories - English geologist, topographer and surveyor

Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen : biography

6 July 1834 - 2 December 1923

Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen FRS FZS FRGS MBOU (6 July 1834 – 2 December 1923), was an English topographer, geologist, naturalist and surveyor. He explored the mountains in the Himalayas and surveyed the glaciers at the base of K2 which is sometimes also known as Mt. Godwin-Austen.


He joined the great trigonometrical survey of India in 1856 and worked in Kashmir under Colonel Thomas George Montgomerie. He worked around the Kazi Nag, Pir Panjal and Marau-Warwan region. In 1860 he was given a permanent post in the trigonometrical survey and he mapped Shigar and the lower Saltoro valley of Baltistan. He also went around the Skoro La, beyond Skardu and Shigar where he surveyed the Karakoram glaciers: Baltoro, Punmah, Biafo, and Hispar. In 1862 he surveyed upper Changchenmo, Pangong district and the Zanskar ranges which were published in his Notes on the Pangong Lake District of Ladakh (1864). Although he gave most attention to geology and topography, he also collected specimens of molluscs and birds. He was recognized as a malacologist and served in 1897–1899 as an early President of the Malacological Society of London, and was also the author of The Land and Freshwater Mollusca of India (1882–87). He was also an ornithologist, writing Birds of Assam (1870–78) and describing a number of birds for the first time, some with Arthur Hay, 9th Marquess of Tweeddale. Most of these notes were published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal and he sometimes made illustrations of these new bird species. He was particularly active in ornithology after 1863, when he was posted in the eastern Himalayas as part of the political mission headed by Ashley Eden to Bhutan. He surveyed the Garo, Khasi and Jaintia hills and joined an expedition into the Dafla hills in 1875. Here he described the monuments and customs of the Khasi tribes.

He married Pauline Georgiana (d. 1871), daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Wellesley Chichele Plowden, on 5 April 1861. Pauline died in 1871 leaving their one surviving son was Major R. A. Godwin-Austen. In 1881 he married Jessie (d. 1913), daughter of John Harding Robinson, an Examiner in the House of Lords. He retired as a colonel from the Trigonometrical Survey of India in 1877 as his health began to deteriorate but recovered back in England. When his father died in 1884, he inherited the family estate at Shalford. He however ran into financial difficulties and was forced to sell his collection of birds, about 3500 skins collected in Manipur and Assam to the British Museum. He later lived at Nore near Godalming. He died on 2nd December 1923.

The Karakoram peak K2 in the Himalayas was originally named Mount Godwin-Austen in his honour but his original code indicating that it was the second highest peak in the Karakoram range continues to be in use. The Godwin Austen Glacier was also named in his honour. He received a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society in 1910.

Army service

Godwin-Austen joined the Royal Military College, Sandhurst in 1848 and learnt survey techniques from Captain Petley and was a contemporary of Lord Roberts. He entered the army in 1851 with the 24th foot which later became the South Wales Borderers. In 1852 he saw action in the Second Anglo-Burmese war, where he served aide-de-camp to his grandfather General Henry Godwin. While in Burma he surveyed the Irrawaddy delta region after which he moved to Peshawar under Major General Thomas Reed.


  • 15px Godwin-Austen H. H. (1882–1920). Land and freshwater mollusca of India, including South Arabia, Baluchistan, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Nepal, Burma, Pegu, Tenasserim, Malaya Peninsula, Ceylon and other islands of the Indian Ocean; Supplementary to Masers Theobald and Hanley's Conchologica Indica. Taylor and Francis, London. VI+257+ 442+65 pp., 165 pls. Published in parts:
    • (1889) + ; 1882: pp. I–VI, 1–66, pls. 1–12; 1883: pp. 67–164, pls. 13–42; 1884: pls. 43–51; 1886: pp. 165–206; 1887: pls. 52–62; 1888: pp. 207–257.
    • (1889–1914) + ; 1897: pp. 1–46, pls. 63–69; 1898: pp. 47–86, pls. 70–82; 1899: pp. 87–146, pls. 83–100; 1907: pp. 147–238, pls. 101–117; 1910: pp. 239–310, pls. 118–132; 1914: pp. 311–442, pls. 133–158;
    • (1920) : 1920: pp. 1–65, pls. 159–165.
  • 15px Blanford W. T. & Godwin-Austen H. H. 1908. . The Fauna of British India, including Burma and Ceylon.

Early life

The eldest son of the geologist Robert Alfred Cloyne Godwin-Austen, Henry was born in Teignmouth, and attended the Royal Grammar School, Guildford. His mother, Maria Elizabeth Godwin-Austen, was the only child of Major General Sir Henry Godwin (1784–1853), who commanded the British and Indian forces in the First and Second Anglo-Burmese Wars.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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