Houghton was born in Troy, New York on September 9, 1809. Fe was educated as a physician at the Rensselaer Institute and graduated in 1829. The following year he was appointed Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Natural History at the Institute. While he was serving in that position he came to Detroit to deliver a series of lectures on scientific subjects.
In 1831 he was appointed surgeon and botanist to the expedition sent out by the federal government to explore the sources of the Mississippi River. On his return from the expedition he settled in Detroit where he practiced as a physician.
On September 10, 1833 Douglas Houghton married his childhood sweetheart Harriet Stevens in Fredonia, New York. They established their home in Detroit at 19 Wayne Street. Over the next few years they had four children.
Houghton was elected President of Detroit’s Young Men’s Society in 1833. In 1837 he was appointed the State Geologist for Michigan, apposition he held until his death. He did much to develop the natural resources of the state. Houghton was instrumental in attracting influential backers for the development of Michigan’s wealth of natural resources. He also served as one of the Professors at the University of Michigan.
He was a member of the National Institute in Washington, the Boston Society of Natural History, and an honorary member of the Royal Antiquarian Society of Copenhagen and many other scientific and literary associations. Houghton was elected Mayor of Detroit and served in 1842/1843.
Houghton was drowned in Lake Superior, near the mouth of Eagle River, during a violent storm, on October 13, 1845. His body was recovered in May of the following year. He was returned to Detroit and buried in Elmwood Cemetery. His death was deemed a great Public loss.
Michigan’s Houghton County was named as a tribute to this explorer, geologist, doctor, educator and leader. This is among the many tributes to this Renaissance man.
Born: September 21, 1809
Died: October 13, 1845
Buried: Section L, Lot 5