James Wood (mathematician)

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The Very Reverend James Wood (14 December 1760 – 23 April 1839) was a mathematician, Dean of Ely and Master of St John's College, Cambridge.[1]


Wood was born in Holcombe where his father ran an evening school and taught his son the elements of arithmetic and algebra. From Bury Grammar School he proceeded to St John's College, Cambridge in 1778, graduating as senior wrangler in 1782.[2] On graduating he became a fellow of the college and in his long tenure there produced several successful academic textbooks for students of mathematics.[1]

Wood remained for sixty years at St. John's, serving as both President (1802–1815) and Master (1815–1839); on his death in 1839 he was interred in the college chapel and bequeathed his extensive library to the college, comprising almost 4,500 printed books on classics, history, mathematics, theology and travel, dating from the 17th to the 19th centuries.[3]

Wood was also ordained as a priest in 1787 and served as Dean of Ely from 1820 until his death.[1]


  • The Elements of Algebra (1795)
  • The Principles of Mechanics (1796)
  • The Elements of Optics (1798)


Church of England titles
Preceded by
William Pearce
Dean of Ely
Succeeded by
George Peacock
Academic offices
Preceded by
William Craven
Master of St John's College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Ralph Tatham