Doctor Howard Townsend was born in Albany on November 22, 1823. He was the son of Isaiah and Hannah (Townsend) Townsend. His father was an industrialist, having carried on the business of the Stirling Iron Works which forged the Hudson River Chain that prevented the British Royal Navy from sailing up the Hudson River during the American Revolution. Isaiah had transferred the the business from Stirling NY to Albany.
Dr. Townsend was the grandson of Solomon Townsend, a ship's captain during the American Revolution, and great grandson of Samuel Townsend a member of the New York provincial congress and of the committee appointed to prepare a form of government for the state of New York. His ancestors Henry Townsend and Henry's brother John immigrated to Massachusetts from Norfolk England in 1640 and settled at Jamaica on Long Island NY, and were founding members of Oyster Bay Long Island.
Townsend had 7 brothers and 2 sisters. There was a strong military bent in the family, as two brothers, Franklin Townsend and Frederick Townsend were Adjutant Generals of New York in the mid 19th century, and another, Robert served in the U.S. Navy, both on the side of the Union. His sister Mary, on the other hand, married General William H.T. Walker of the Confederate Army.
He attended school at the Albany Academy and at Poughkeepsie, and was graduated at Union College in 1843.
After graduating from college Townsend commenced the study of medicine, for which he demonstrated an aptitude. He attended lectures at the Albany Medical College in 1844-5 and 1845-6, and in 1846-7 at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he received the degree of Doctor of Medicine in 1847.
After his graduation, he went to Paris, being a fluent speaker of French, where continued his medical studies. After visiting Italy and other countries of Europe, he returned to Albany in 1849, and commenced the practice of medicine and was appointed one of the physicians to the Albany Hospital.
Townsend married Miss Justine Van Rensselaer, daughter of General Stephen and Harriet Elizabeth (Bayard) Van Rensselaer, in the Manor House at Albany, New York, February 2, 1853. Justine Van Rensselaer, was born at Albany, September 18, 1828, and died at her home, No. 57 East Seventy-eighth street, New York City, April 6, 1912.
In the autumn of 1852 Townsend was appointed a lecturing professor in the Albany Medical College in the area of obstetrics, which he taught for one course of lectures when he was transferred to the chair of Materia Medica. As a lecturer he was distinguished for his clearness and ability to impart a thorough knowledge of the subjects. He was noted for his ability to awaken enthusiasm in the students, and offering free access to the books of his personal library.
In addition to his regular medical lectures Townsend also lectured at the Albany Hospital, concentrating on accurate methods of investigating and diagnosing disease .Eventually Townsend became a trustee of the Albany Academy, a member of the Albany County Medical Society and of the Albany Institute.
(The personal edited research notes of Michael Echols, the source of which may or may not be completely documented)