William Howard Livens, who lived between (1889 – 1964) was an engineer, a soldier in the British Army and an inventor particularly known for the design of chemical warfare and flame warfare weapons. Resourceful and clever, Livens’ successful creations were characterised by being very practical and easy to produce in large numbers. In an obituary, Sir Harold Hartley said "Livens combined great energy and enterprise with a flair for seeing simple solutions and inventive genius."
Livens' parents were Frederick Howard Livens (1854–1948) and Priscilla Abbott. They got married on 9 October 1886 at the Upton Congregational Church. Frederick Howard Livens was Chief Engineer and later Chairman of Ruston and Hornsby in Lincoln.Frederick and Priscilla had three children, William Howard and two younger daughters.
In 1903, Livens was sent to Oundle School, a famous public school located in the ancient market town of Oundle in Northamptonshire, England. While there, he enrolled in the Officer Training Corps (OTC) wherein he served with the rank of sergeant.
On leaving school in 1908, Livens went to Christ's College at the University of Cambridge from 1908 to October 1911. There he enrolled in the college OTC and served with the rank of private.He was captain of the Cambridge rifle team,he was a crack shot and made a record score in a competition with a team from Oxford University; he was also an excellent shot with a pistol.
Livens trained as civil engineer, and was for a while an assistant editor for Country Life magazine.But, when the First World War started, he joined the British Army.