Arthur Smith Woodward

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Arthur Smith Woodward
PSM V66 D014 Officers of the paleontology section of the st louis congress.png
Woodward is sitting on the right
Born (1864-05-23)23 May 1864
Macclesfield, Cheshire
Died 2 September 1944(1944-09-02) (aged 80)
Nationality English
Fields paleontologist
Notable awards Lyell Medal (1896)
Clarke Medal (1914)
Royal Medal (1917)
Wollaston Medal (1924)
Linnean Medal (1940)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]

Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, FRS[1] (23 May 1864 – 2 September 1944) was an English palaeontologist.


Woodward was born in Macclesfield, Cheshire, England and was educated there and at Owens College, Manchester. He joined the staff of the Department of Geology at the Natural History Museum in 1882. He became assistant Keeper of Geology in 1892, and Keeper in 1901. He was appointed Secretary of the Palaeontographical Society and in 1904, was appointed President of the Geological Society. He was elected in June 1901 a Fellow of the Royal Society [1][2]

He was the world expert on fossil fish, writing his Catalogue of the Fossil Fishes in the British Museum (1889–1901).[3] His travels included journeys to South America and Greece. In 1901, for the trustees of the Natural History Museum, he made excavations of fossil bones from Pikermi (near Athens).[4] His contribution to palaeoichthyology resulted in him receiving many awards, including a Royal Medal from the Royal Society in 1917, the Lyell and Wollaston Medals of the Geological Society, the Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society and the Clarke Medal of the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1914. He retired from the museum in 1924. In 1942 Woodward was awarded the Mary Clark Thompson Medal from the National Academy of Sciences.[5]

Woodward's reputation suffered from his involvement in the Piltdown Man hoax where he gave a name to a new species of hominid from southern England, which was ultimately discovered (after Woodward's death) to have been a forgery.[6]

Woodward was a leading advocate of orthogenesis. He believed there was a general trend in evolution from the fossil record and speculated that the human brain might have been the product of such a trend. He discussed his views on human evolution in his book The Earliest Englishman (1948).[7]

He married Maud Leanora Ida Seeley, the daughter of zoologist Harry Govier Seeley, in 1894.


  1. ^ a b c Cooper, C. F. (1945). "Arthur Smith Woodward. 1864-1944". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society 5 (14): 79. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1945.0006.  edit
  2. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". The Royal Society. Retrieved 11 October 2010. 
  3. ^ Watson, D. M. S. (1944). "Sir Arthur Smith Woodward, F.R.S". Nature 154 (3908): 389. doi:10.1038/154389a0.  edit
  4. ^ "WOODWARD, Arthur Smith". Who's Who, 59: p. 1932. 1907. 
  5. ^ "Mary Clark Thompson Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 14 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Miles Russell. (2004). Piltdown Man: The Secret Life of Charles Dawson. Tempus. ISBN 0-7524-2572-2
  7. ^ Peter J. Bowler. (1986). Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944. The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 199-200

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Preceded by
William Harper Twelvetrees
Clarke Medal
Succeeded by
William Aitcheson Haswell