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WOODWARD, JOHN (b. Derbyshire, England, 1
May 1665; d. London, England, 25 April 1728),
geology, mineralogy, botany.
in the organic origin of animal remains in rocks;
and he translated the Essay into Latin. The information
contained in the Essay and in Woodward's
later works also contributed toward establishing
that strata throughout the world are, generally
speaking, similar in character, a conclusion necessary
before any acceptable theory of the origin of
the rocks of the crust of the earth could be formulated.
In 1696 Woodward published an anonymous
twenty-page pamphlet entitled Brief Instructions
for making Observations in All Parts of the World:
as Also for Collecting, Preserving, and Sending
Over Natural Things. This work is of considerable
interest, for even today it might, with little emendation,
serve the purpose for which it was intended.
Woodward circulated the work, and by this
means and through correspondents in many countries
ultimately formed a large collection of fossils
and minerals. The value of this collection lay in
the fact that he studied his specimens carefully,
and later published pioneer attempts to classify
both minerals and fossils systematically.
Woodward first discussed minerals in Section 4
of his Essay, where he admitted the difficulties in
determining the nature of individual minerals, inevitable
at that time, and made greater because he included
rocks with his minerals. His first attempt at
a classification appeared in 1704, under the head
“Fossils,” in John Harris' Lexicon chemicum.
Here he divided minerals into six classes: “earths,
stones, salts, bitumina, metallick minerals and
metals.” This was reprinted with little change, in
his Naturalis historia telluris (1714). Later
Woodward greatly enlarged this classification. His
Fossils of All Kinds Digested Into a Method
(1728) contains a large folding table setting out his
mineral classification systematically. It retains the
six major classes, but adds many more subdivisions.
The text includes fifty-six pages in which
some two hundred minerals are described, together
with their mode of occurrence in some cases.
Some specimens were examined under the microscope,
and Woodward mentions the characteristics
used in making his determinations.
Woodward's last work, published posthumously
in 1729, was An Attempt Towards a Natural History
of the Fossils of England. This was a detailed
catalogue of his collection of both British and foreign
minerals and fossils, some 4,000 - 5,000 in
number, occupying about 600 pages of small print.
Localities of specimens are given with, frequently,
the names of correspondents who supplied them,
and the use of some minerals is discussed.
In this catalogue Woodward enlarged his systematic
classification of minerals to include eleven
classes. He also classified animal and vegetable
fossils, the former into fifteen classes, and the latter
into five groups. His classification of fossils was
more elaborate and rational than that used by
Lhwyd in his Lithophylacii Britannici ichnographia
(1699). Woodward's catalogue was used by
geologists for almost a century after its publication.
The specimens he collected are now preserved in
the Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge, in their original
Woodward's last contribution to the advancement
of geological science was to leave in his will
funds to establish at the University of Cambridge a
lectureship bearing his name; this eventually
evolved into the Woodwardian chair in geology,
the earliest such post in the subject in any British
Woodward was the first British author to publish
a systematic classification and description of minerals
based on his own observations; and he
emphasized the importance to his country of its
mineral wealth. His classification of fossil organic
remains was one of the earliest of its kind. While
Woodward does not rank high as an original thinker,
his contributions to the advancement of geology
were important in their time, in relation to contemporary
knowledge. The true value of his work can
only be assessed by examining all of his geological
publications. His works were widely read and must
have done much to stimulate interest in the earth
I. ORIGINAL WORKS.
For a complete and annotated
bibliography of Woodward's works, including translations,
see V. A. Eyles, “John Woodward, F.R.S.,
F.R.C.P., M.D. (1665 - 1728): A Bio-bibliographical
Account of His Life and Work,” in Journal of the Society
for the Bibliography of Natural History, 5 (1971),
399 - 427.
Woodward's books of geological and mineralogical
interest are Essay Toward a Natural History of the
Earth (London, 1695; 2nd ed.; 1702; 3rd ed., 1723);
Brief Instructions for Making Observations in All Parts
of the World (London, 1696; repr. with an introduction
by V. A. Eyles, by the Society for the Bibliography of
Natural History, London, 1973); Naturalis historia telluris
illustrata & aucta (London, 1714); Natural History
of the Earth, Illustrated, Enlarged and Defended
(London, 1726), a translation by B. Holloway, of Naturalis
historia, with some other papers by Woodward; A
Supplement and Continuation of the Essay Towards a