WOODWARD, JOHN (1665-1728), English naturalist and geologist, was born in Derbyshire on the 1st of May 1665. At the age of sixteen he went to London, where he studied with Dr Peter Barwick, physician to Charles II. In 1692 he was appointed professor of physic in Gresham college. In 1693 he was elected F.R.S., in 1695 was made M.D. by Archbishop Tenison and also by Cambridge, and in 1702 became F.R.C.P.
While still a student he became interested in botany and natural history, and during visits to Gloucestershire his attention was attracted by the fossils that are abundant in many parts of that county; and he began to form the great collection with which his name is associated. His views were set forth in An Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth and Terrestrial Bodies, especially Minerals, etc. (1695; 2nd ed. 1702, 3rd ed. 1723). This was followed by Brief Instructions for making Observations in all Parts of the World (1696). He was author also of An Attempt towards a Natural History of the Fossils of England (2 vols., 1728 and 1729). In these works he showed that the stony surface of the earth was divided into strata, and that the enclosed shells were originally generated at sea; but his views of the method of formation of the rocks were entirely erroneous. In his elaborate Catalogue he described his rocks, minerals and fossils in a manner far in advance of the age. He died on the 25th of April 1728, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
By his will he directed that his personal estate and effects were to be sold, and that land of the yearly value of one hundred and fifty pounds was to be puchased and conveyed to the University of Cambridge. A lecturer was to be chosen, and paid 100 a year to read at least four lectures every year, on some one or other of the subjects treated of in his Natural History of the Earth. Hence arose the Woodwardian professorship of geology. To the same university he bequeathed his collection of English fossils, to be under the care of the lecturer, and these formed the nucleus of the Woodwardian museum at Cambridge. The specimens have since been removed to the new Sedgwick museum.
A full account of Woodward's life and views and a portrait of him are given in the Life and Letters of the Rev. Adam Sedgwick, by J. W. Clark and T. McK. Hughes, where it is mentioned that his paper, read before the Royal Society in 1699, entitled Some Thoughts and Experiments concerning Vegetation, " shows that the author should be ranked as a founder of experimental plant-physiology, for he was one of the first to employ the method of water-culture, and to make refined experiments for the investigation of plant-life."
See also The Lives of the Professors of Gresham College, by John Ward (1740).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)