Wood, John (1811-1871) (DNB00)


WOOD, JOHN (1811–1871), geographer, born in 1811, entered the East India Company's naval service in 1826 and rose to the rank of lieutenant. At the close of 1835, through the exertions of government, the Indus was opened for commerce. The first to take advantage of this concession was Aga Mohammed Rahim, a Persian merchant of Bombay, who purchased a steamer for the navigation of the river. At his request, and with the permission of government, Wood took command of the vessel, named the Indus, which started on 31 Oct. 1835, and returned to Bombay in February 1836, leaving him on the banks of the river to ascertain the area of the annual inundation and the rise and fall of the tide. On the conclusion of these observations he returned to Bombay, and on 9 Nov. was appointed an assistant to the commercial mission to Afghanistan under the command of (Sir) Alexander Burnes [q. v.] Wood drew up a report of the geography of the Kábul Valley and discovered the source of the Oxus. In October 1838 Burnes mentioned Wood's services to the government with the highest praise. His industry was cut short by the differences which arose between Burnes and the governor-general, George Eden, earl of Auckland [q. v.], and Wood accompanied his chief into retirement. After leaving the service with the rank of captain, Wood emigrated to New Zealand in connection with the newly formed New Zealand Company, but, finding he had overestimated the advantages to be derived from association with the undertaking, he returned to Europe. Between 1843 and 1849 his time was chiefly given to mercantile pursuits. In 1849 Sir Charles James Napier [q. v.] wished Wood to accompany him to the Punjaub, but the court of directors refused their consent. Disappointed in this project, Wood emigrated to Victoria in 1852, returning to Europe in 1857, and in the following year he proceeded to Sind as manager of the Oriental Inland Steam Navigation Company. The project was a failure, and, the shareholders refusing to adopt Wood's suggestions for sending vessels suitable for the rapid current of the Indus, the concern was wound up. In 1861 (Sir) William Patrick Andrew, the projector of railway and river communication in western India, secured Wood's services for the Indus steam flotilla, which he continued to superintend until his death in Sind on 13 Nov. 1871. He was married, and left issue.

Wood was the author of: 1. ‘A Personal Narrative of a Journey to the Source of the Oxus,’ London, 1841, 8vo; new edit. by his son, Alexander Wood, London, 1872, 8vo. 2. ‘Twelve Months in Wellington,’ London, 1843, 12mo. 3. ‘New Zealand and its Claimants,’ London, 1845, 8vo.

[Preface by Alexander Wood to Wood's Journey to the Source of the Oxus, 1872; Irving's Book of Scotsmen, 1881.]

E. I. C.