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John Woodward

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John Woodward (1665-1728)

John Woodward (May 1, 1665 - April 25, 1728) was an English paleontologist, geologist, antiquarian, and naturalist. During the 20th century, many scientists accepted Evolutionism. Despite strong pressure to accept evolutionism, as a creationist, John Woodward dismissed Evolution as highly impossible and unreasonable with many other scientists helping develop the science of paleontology.


John Woodward was born in Derbyshire, a country in central England, on May 1, 1665. He was a close friend of Issac Newton, an English physicist and astronomer who is well known for his great contributions to the world. Woodward is also known as one of the founders of the science of geology along with Nicholas Steno from Denmark.(Morris p27) When Woodward was sixteen years old, he went to London and studied with Dr. Peter Barwick who was a physician to Charles II. In 1692, he became Professor of Physics at Gresham College. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society, also called as F.R.S. in 1693. Two years later, he got master degree from Archbishop Tension as well as Cambridge. [1] In 1702 he was appointed as a F.R.C.P., or Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. While Woodward was a student, he was interested in studying botany and natural history. When he visited Gloucestershire, a county in South West England, he was fascinated by the fossils that were abundantly present in the country. From that time on, Woodward started collecting fossils and was known for his essential contribution to paleontology, the establishment of a paleontological museum and the Woodwardian Professorship of Geology at Cambridge associated with his name. [2] On April 25, 1728, Woodward died and was burried in Westminster Abbey, at the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster.


In 1699, John Woodward's hydroponics, water culture, and experiments with spearmint were published. He concluded that plants in contaminated water sources grew better than plants in distilled water. [3]

Brief Instructions for making Observations in all Parts of the World
The book was published in 1696. It includes numerous instructions for collecting, preserving, and sending over natural things and how to set up an universal correspondence for the advancement of both natural and civil knowledge. [4] The work also contains principles of systematic observation and documentation of geological phenomena. This became as a model of museum practice for may years. [5]

Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth
Among people, John Woodward was known as a 'super-diluvialist'. Woodward thought that when pre-existing rocks were pulverized, sedimentary strata were the product of a universal deluge. In his opinion, the detritus settled out because of gravity and buried the rest of organisms of the time as fossils. [6] In his book, Woodward demonstrated his theory that "Vindicates, supports and maintains the Mosaick Account of things, as exactly agreeable to the Phaenomena of Nature." Woodward thought that the Flood had dissolved every rock and gathered every living thing into "one common confused Mass." According to his theory, the heavier rock particles and fossils sank first, and the lighter particles came later. [7] This Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth described the process of temporally suspending gravity while the sediments were scattered before they settled. Published in 1695. The book includes natural histories of the sea, rivers, and springs after the universal deluge and the their effects upon the earth. [8] Compared to other books that were published before, Woodward's book Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth was more biblical and geologically scientific.(Morris p27)

Besides these two works, John Woodward published numerous books on geology, including:

  • Classification of English Minerals and Fossils (1729)
  • An Attempt towards a Natural History of the Fossils of England (1728 and 1729)

From these works, John Woodward demonstrated that the strata divided the stony surface of the earth and the enclosed shells were initially generated at sea. However, his theory of formation of the rocks was totally inaccurate. Also his thoughts were ridiculed severely by John Arbuthnot, a physician, satirist and polymath in London who derided Woodward's method of classification.[9]


Museum at University of Cambridge

Woodward mentioned in his will that he wanted all his personal estate and effects to be sold. He also said that the University of Cambridge conveyed the land, which had a yearly value of one hundred and fifty pounds. Woodard also bequeathed all his collection of English fossils to the University of Cambridge. His fossils formed the nucleus of the Woodwardian museum at Cambridge. However, the specimens were removed to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Science, and the geology museum of the University of Cambridge in England opened in 1904. [10]


  • Brief Instructions for making Observations in all Parts of the World by John Woodard. 1696.
  • Essay toward a Natural History of the Earth by John Woodward. 1695.
  • Classification of English minerals and fossils by John Woodward. 1729.
  • An Attempt towards a Natural History of the Fossils of England by John Woodward. 1729.