Robertson Howard was born on December 11, 1847, the son of Flodoardo R. and Lydia Marie (Robertson) Howard, in Brookeville, Maryland. He was educated at the old Brookeville Academy, which had been founded in 1808 by his ancestors. Since Howard was of Quaker stock on his mother's side, he probably took no active military part in the Civil War, though he did hospital work among wounded and disabled soldiers during the war. Howard received a Doctor of Medicine from Georgetown University, where his father had been the founder and one of the first professors of medicine, at the age of 18. Because he was only 18, however, he was considered too young to begin practicing medicine, so he was sent to the Univeristy of Virginia for post graduate work in chemistry, which was then taught by one of his uncles. At the University of Virginia, Howard shared Room 43, West Range with Founder Sclater. After completing his post-graduate work, Howard was a member of the medical faculty at Georgetown University for two years and was later connected with the medical section of the National Museum. He married Isolene Carusi and they had five children, four sons and a daughter. For some reason, Howard's interest in medicine waned and in 1874 he received another degree from Georgetown, this time the Bachelor of Law. He practiced law in Baltimore for five years, during which time he handled western land claims and visited the West. From this visit, he probably saw new opportunity and, in 1881, he began the practice of law in St. Paul, Minnesota. He would continue to practice law in St. Paul until his sudden death in his carriage on December 1, 1899, just before his 52nd birthday. Howard's body was taken to his old home in Washington, D.C. for burial and lay for years in an unmarked grave in the Congressional cemetery.