Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wood, Searles Valentine (1830-1884)


WOOD, SEARLES VALENTINE, the younger (1830–1884), geologist, the only child of Searles Valentine Wood (1798–1880) [q. v.], was born at Hasketon, near Woodbridge, on 4 Feb. 1830. He was educated at King's College, London, and in France; on returning to England he studied law, was admitted a solicitor in 1851, and practised in London. As he had been devoted to geology from his earliest years, he took the opportunity of his partner's death in 1865 to retire from business, after which he made his home with his father, in whose work he was constantly a helper. Elected F.G.S. in 1864, he published in that year a map of the East Anglian drifts. The next six or seven years after he became free were devoted to a more thorough study of those deposits in conjunction with F. W. Harmer, Wood taking as his especial task the drifts of Suffolk and Essex, his friend those of Norfolk. They embodied the results in a memoir and map, published by the Palæontographical Society in 1871, as an introduction to the supplement to the ‘Crag Mollusca’ by S. V. Wood, senior. The son wrote separately or jointly nearly sixty scientific papers. The earlier deal with rather wide geological problems, but the majority refer to Pliocene and glacial deposits, more especially the latter. As this is a controversial subject, Wood's views have not escaped adverse criticism, but they always demand respectful consideration as founded on most careful and conscientious investigation. Indeed he never spared any pains to get at the truth, for which alone he cared. For instance, in 1871, on finding a seam in the mid-glacial sands to be full of minute fragments of marine shells, he had a quantity of the material sent to Brentford, where he then resided. By patiently sifting this he obtained about seventy recognisable species of mollusca, some of which were novelties, and these led him to regard the deposit as older than a similar one in Lancashire, previously supposed to be contemporaneous.

About 1875 Wood's heath began to fail, but his mental powers were not affected, and he continued to work at and write on his favourite studies. His latest task was the investigation of the very early Pliocene deposit discovered at St. Erth's, Cornwall. He died at his residence, Beacon Hill House, Martlesham, near Woodbridge, on 14 Dec. 1884, and was buried near his father at Melton. In 1853 he married Elizabeth Gayler, but their union was childless.

[Obituary notices, Nature, xxxi. 318, Quart. Jour. Geol. Soc. 1885, vol. xli. Proc. p. 41, Geol. Mag, 1885, p. 138 (with list of scientific papers); also information from Mrs. Searles Wood (widow) and F. W. Harmer, esq.]

T. G. B.