Robert W. Wood
|Robert Williams Wood|
|Born||May 2, 1868
|Died||August 11, 1955
Amityville, New York
|Known for||optics, capillary wave|
|Notable awards||John Scott Medal (1908)|
Robert Williams Wood (May 2, 1868 – August 11, 1955) was an American physicist and inventor. He is often cited as being a pivotal contributor to the field of optics and a pioneer of infrared and ultraviolet photography. Wood's patents and theoretical work shed much light on the nature and physics of ultra-violet radiation and made possible the myriad of uses of uv-fluorescence which became popular after World War I.
Born in Concord, Massachusetts, Wood attended The Roxbury Latin School with the initial intent of becoming a priest. But he decided to study optics instead when he witnessed a rare glowing aurora one night and believed the effect to be caused by "invisible rays". In his pursuit to find these "invisible rays", Wood studied and earned numerous degrees from Harvard, MIT and the University of Chicago. He taught briefly at the University of Wisconsin and eventually became a full-time professor of "optical physics" at Johns Hopkins University from 1901 until his death. He worked closely with Alfred Lee Loomis at Tuxedo Park, New York.
Another claim to fame was his debunking of N-rays in 1904. French physicist Prosper-René Blondlot claimed to have discovered a new form of radiation similar to X-rays, which he named N-rays. Some physicists successfully reproduced his experiments; others failed to. Visiting Blondlot's laboratory at the behest of the journal Nature, Wood surreptitiously removed an essential prism from Blondlot's apparatus during a demonstration. The effect did not vanish, showing that N-rays had always been self-deception on Blondlot's part.
Wood identified a very low ultraviolet albedo (reflectivity, that is most of the ultraviolet is absorbed) region in the Aristarchus Plateau region which he suggested was due to high sulphur. The area continues to be called Wood's Spot. In 1909, Wood constructed the first practical liquid mirror astronomical telescope, by spinning mercury to form a paraboloidal shape, and investigated its benefits and limitations. Wood has been described as the "father of both infrared and ultraviolet photography". Though the discovery of electromagnetic radiation beyond the visible spectrum and the development of photographic emulsions capable of recording them pre-date Wood, he was the first to intentionally produce photographs with both infrared and ultraviolet radiation. In 1903 he developed a filter, Wood's glass, that was opaque to visible light but transparent to both ultraviolet and infrared, and is used in modern-day black lights. He used it for ultraviolet photography but also suggested its use for secret communication. He was also the first person to photograph ultraviolet fluorescence. He also developed a lamp, called a Wood's lamp, that radiated only ultraviolet, which is now used in medicine, forensics, and other fields. The slightly surreal glowing appearance of foliage in infrared photographs is called the Wood effect.
Wood also authored non-technical works. In 1915, Wood co-authored a science fiction novel, The Man Who Rocked the Earth, with Arthur Train; a sequel, The Moon Maker, was published the next year. He also wrote and illustrated two books of children's verse, How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers (1907) and Animal Analogues (1908).
Wood married in 1892 in San Francisco, Gertrude Hooper Ames, daughter of Pelham Warren and August Wood (Hooper) Ames, and granddaughter of William Northey Hooper, and Massachusetts Supreme Court judge, Hon. Seth Ames. He died in Amityville, New York.
- Rumford Medal of the Royal Society, for his work in physical optics, 1938.
- Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, for his contributions to astrophysics, 1940.
- The crater Wood on the far side of the Moon is named after him.
- Honorary degrees from Berlin University, Clark University, University of Birmingham, and Edinburgh University.
- Member of the Royal Society, London (foreign), London Optical Society (honorary), Konigliche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen (corresponding), Accademia dei Lincei, Rome (foreign), Russian Academy of Science, Leningrad, American National Academy of Science, Academy of Arts and Sciences, Philosophical Society, Physical Society, Royal Institution, London (honorary), Physical Society of London (honorary fellow), Royal Swedish Academy, Stockholm (foreign), Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, Calcutta (foreign).
- Medal awarded by the Royal Society of Arts for his diffraction process in color photography, 1899.
- Franklin Institute John Scott medal, awarded by the City of Philadelphia for further progress in diffraction color photos, 1907.
- J. Traill Taylor medal, awarded for photography by invisible rays, 1910.
- Gold medal, Societa’ Italiana della Scienze, for general outstanding scientific achievement, 1918.
- Frederic Ives Medal, awarded by the Optical Society of America for distinguished work in physical optics, 1933.
- Served as vice-president (1934) and president (1935) of the American Physical Society.
- R. W. Wood Prize of the Optical Society of America, recognizes an outstanding discovery, scientific or technological achievement or invention.
- Conant, Jennet (2002). Tuxedo Park, A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-87287-0.
- Wood, R.W. (29 September 1904). "The N-Rays". Nature 70 (1822): 530–531. Bibcode:1904Natur..70..530W. doi:10.1038/070530a0. "After spending three hours or more in witnessing various experiments, I am not only unable to report a single observation which appeared to indicate the existence of the rays, but left with a very firm conviction that the few experimenters who have obtained positive results, have been in some way deluded. A somewhat detailed report of the experiments which were shown to me, together with my own observations, may be of interest to the many physicists who have spent days and weeks in fruitless efforts to repeat the remarkable experiments which have been described in the scientific journals of the past year."
- Wood, RW (1912). "Selective absorption of light on the Moon's surface and lunar petrography". Astrophysics Journal 36: 75.
- Zisk, S. H., Hodges, C. A., Moore, H. J., Wilhelms, D. E., Shorthill, R. W., Thompson, T. W. (1977). "The Aristarchus-Harbinger region of the moon - Surface geology and history from recent remote-sensing observations". The Moon 17: 59–99.
- Gibson, B. K. (August 1991). "Liquid mirror telescopes: history" (PDF). Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 85 (4): 158–171. Bibcode:1991JRASC..85..158G.
- Williams, Robin; Gigi Williams (2002). "Wood, Professor Robert Williams". Pioneers of Invisible Radiation Photography. RMIT Online University, Melbourne, AU. Retrieved January 16, 2013.
- Seabrook (1941)
- "Wood effect". PhotoNotes.org: Dictionary of Film and Digital Photography. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Train & Wood (1915)
- Train & Wood (1916)
- [Anon.] (1980)
- "Rumford archive winners 1988–1900". The Royal Society. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- "Awards: Henry Draper Medal". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2007-08-12.
- Cocks, E. E. & Cocks, J. C. (1995). Who's Who on the Moon: A Biographical Dictionary of Lunar Nomenclature. Tudor Publishers. ISBN 0-936389-27-3.
Works by Wood 
- Wood, R. W. (1909). "Note on the Theory of the Greenhouse". The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, Vol. 17, pp. 319–320.
- Train, A. C. & Wood, R. W. (1915). The Man Who Rocked the Earth. Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co. ISBN 0-405-06315-6.
- Train, A. C. & Wood, R. W. (1916 (A direct sequel to The Man Who Rocked The Earth)). The Moon Maker. Garden City: Doubleday, Page & Co.
- Wood, R. W. (1913). Researches in physical optics (vol.1), with special reference to the radiation of electrons. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.
- Wood, R. W. (1919). Researches in physical optics (vol.2), Resonance radiation and resonance spectra. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.
- Wood, R. W. (1905). Physical Optics. New York: MacMillan.
- Wood, R. W. (1917) . How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers and Other Wood-Cuts: A Revised Manual of Flornithology for Beginners (includes "Animal Anatomies") (26 ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead and Company.
About Wood 
- [Anon.] (2001) "Wood, Robert Williams", Encyclopaedia Britannica, Deluxe CDROM edition
- Klotz, I. M. (1980). "The N-ray affair". Scientific American: May, 130.
- Seabrook, W. (1941). Doctor Wood, Modern Wizard of the Laboratory. New York: Harcourt Brace.
- Williams, R. & Williams, G. (2002). "Pioneers of Invisible Radiation Photography: Prof Robert Williams Wood (1868–1955)". Medical and Scientific Photography. Retrieved 2007-08-13.
- Works by Robert W. Wood at Project Gutenberg
- Robert Williams Wood at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database