S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Woods, Mr Henry (palaeontology)

Born: 18 December 1868, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, England.
Died: 4 April 1952, Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, England.

Henry Woods, British palaeontologist, was educated at St John's College, Cambridge, obtaining a first class BA (Honours) degree in the natural sciences, with geology as his major subject, in 1890, and the degree Master of Arts (MA) in 1894. That same year he was appointed demonstrator in palaeozoology in the Department of Geology at the University of Cambridge. He remained attached to the same department for his entire career, as lecturer in palaeozoology from 1899 to his retirement in 1934 and then as departmental librarian until a few years before his death. As early as 1891 he published a catalogue of type fossils in the department's Woodwardian Museum and spent much time caring for the collection until the first curator was appointed in 1920. He also assisted in the planning of the new Sedgwick [geological] Museum and took a leading part in arranging its collections and exhibits. A textbook based on his lecture notes, Palaeontology: Invertebrate (1893) went through many editions until 1946.

Woods was one of the leading invertebrate palaeontologists of his time, meticulous in his research and a thorough teacher. His best know work was his Monograph of the Cretaceous lamellibranchia of England (2 vols, 1899-1913. Equally thorough was his Monograph of the fossil macrurous Crustacea of England (1925-1931). Other monographs and papers dealt with Cretaceous and Tertiary Mollusca from various parts of the world. Two of these were published in South Africa and dealt with local fossils. In "The Cretaceous fauna of Pondoland" (Annals of the South African Museum, 1906, Vol. 7(1), pp. 275-350) he described the invertebrate fossils collected in 1901 from the Upper Cretaceous deposits at the mouths of the Mzamba and Mpenjati Rivers (now named the Mzamba Beds) by A.W. Rogers* and E.H.L. Schwartz* of the Geological Commission, Cape of Good Hope. He also studied the collection made in the same place by C.L. Griesbach* in 1870, which was then in the Hamburg Museum. In "Echinodea, Brachiopoda, and Lamellibranchia from the Upper Cretaceous Limestone of Need's Camp, Buffalo River" (Ibid, 1908, Vol. 7(1), 8 p) he described the invertebrate marine fossils from two quarries in isolated patches of Upper Cretaceous and Tertiary limestone some 27 km west of East London.

Woods became a member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1904 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1916. The honours he received included the Lyell fund (1898), the Lyell medal (1918) and the Wollaston medal of the Geological Society of London (1940). He was a tall and spare man with a reserved manner. In 1910 he married the palaeontologist Ethel G. Skeat, but they had no children.

List of sources:
Annals of the South African Museum: List of papers published in Volumes 1-30. Cape Town: South African Museum, 1938.

British Association for the Advancement of Science. Report of the seventy-fifth meeting... South Africa, 1905, list of members.

National Union Catalogue, pre-1956 imprints. London: Mansell, 1968-1980.

Oxford dictionary of national biography. Oxford University Press, 2004.

Royal Society of London. Catalogue of scientific papers. London: Royal Society, 1867-1925.

South African Committee for Stratigraphy. Stratigraphy of South Africa. Part 1: Lithostratigraphy... (compiled by L.E. Kent). Pretoria: Geological Survey, Handbook 8, 1980.

Woods, Henry. "The cretaceous fauna of Pondoland" Annals of the South African Museum, 1906, Vol. 4(7), pp. 275-350.

Compiled by: C. Plug