Wood, Searles Valentine (1798-1880) (DNB00)

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WOOD, SEARLES VALENTINE, the elder (1798–1880), geologist, was son of John Wood, solicitor, of Woodbridge, by his wife Mary Ann, daughter of Simon Baker of Ipswich. Born on 14 Feb. 1798, and brought up in that town, he served from 1811 to 1825 as an officer in the East India Company's navy. After retiring from that service he travelled for a time, then settled down to palæontological studies at Hasketon, near Woodbridge, where he became partner with his father in a bank. About 1835, owing to a failure of health, he retired from business. Change and rest cured him, and then he settled in London. Here he joined the London Clay Club, founded by John Scott Bowerbank [q. v.], and for a time acted as curator of the Geological Society's museum. In 1844–5 he lived abroad for his son's education, and on his return made his home first at Staines, and then at Brentford, till he went back in 1875 to Suffolk, residing at Martlesham, near Woodbridge.

While still young Wood began to study the East-Anglian crag, at a time when fossils were much more easily obtained than they now are, with the result that during his long life he formed a splendid collection. During his residence in London he arranged with Frederick Edwards, who was hardly less enthusiastic in working the metropolitan district, to describe the fossil mollusca of the British tertiary strata; the former undertaking the Pliocene, the latter the Eocene. Wood, who had already published a ‘Catalogue of Crag Shells’ in the ‘Annals and Magazine of Natural History,’ 1840–2, had made considerable progress when the Palæontographical Society was founded, and its first volume, published in 1848, consisted of his memoir on the ‘Crag Univalves;’ the ‘Bivalves’ appearing in parts between 1850 and 1855. After this he went to the aid of his friend, undertaking the ‘Eocene Bivalves,’ which appeared in the society's volumes between 1859 and 1877, but was left incomplete, because the Edwards collection had been acquired by the British Museum, and was thus of necessity less accessible to Wood, especially at his advanced age. But he issued a supplement to the ‘Crag Mollusca’ in the volumes for 1871 and 1873, and a second supplement in that for 1879. His labours thus completed, he presented his unrivalled collection to the British Museum of Natural History.

The above-named work on the ‘Crag Mollusca’ fills three large quarto volumes, illustrated by numerous plates, and is universally recognised as one of the highest value; indeed so great was the demand that the Palæontographical Society reprinted the first volume. Wood also published about ten separate papers on geological subjects. Elected F.G.S. in 1839, he received in 1860 the Wollaston medal, the society's highest distinction, and was a member of various other societies, English and foreign. A man with wide interests in natural history, he concentrated himself on one great task, for, as he said, ‘I was born in sight of one crag pit and shall probably be buried in sight of another.’ He died at Martlesham, after a few days' illness, on 26 Oct. 1880, and was buried at Melton. In 1821 he married Elizabeth Taylor, only daughter of Thomas Taylor, solicitor, of London. His only child, Searles Valentine Wood (1830–1884) [q. v.], is separately noticed.

[Obituary notices in Nature, xxiii. 40; Athenæum, 6 Nov. 1880; Quart. Journal Geol. Society, 1881, Proceedings, p. 37, see also 1860 Proceedings, p. xxv; Geol. Mag. 1880, p. 575 (duplicate); information from Mrs. Searles Wood (junior), per F. W. Harmer, esq.]

T. G. B.