Woods, Joseph : FAS, FLS, FGS (1776-1864)

Joseph Woods was a son of Joseph Woods , a Quaker social reformer of Stoke Newington, London.   He was educated at home and became proficient in modern and classical languages.

From the age of 16 he studied architecture and pursued this career, being based in London, until he retired in 1835.  In connection with his work he travelled quite extensively in continental Europe. By quite early on he had become a keen amateur botanist, and he gradually built on this to contribute scientific papers to journals and learned societies on plant systematics. He is particularly known for his work on the British genus Rosa, and on Salicornia.

On retirement from architecture he moved to live in Lewes in East Sussex, and devoted much of his time to botanical studies. ‘The Tourists Flora. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Ferns of the British Islands, France, Germany, Switzerland,  Italy and the Italian Islands’ (1850), was one product of this time.  This can be accessed at archive.org : click here

Although soon after his retiremen he visited Teesdale and the Scottish Highlands, most of his field studies of plants were conducted in the south-eastern counties of England.

He built herbarium collections including both British and continental specimens. His writing and system for dating (final two digits of year, followed by month and day), and a characteristic ‘W’ monogram added (probably later), are distinctive  – see jpg below.

On his death a significant part of  his herbaria was acquired by the Hampshire botanist Frederick Townsend and incorporated into  his own collection. When he, in turn, died in 1905, this large collection passed to A.O.Hume, and was incorporated into the herbarium being assembled for the South London Botanical Institute (SLBI), where, with Woods specimens,  it remains to this day.

His contribution to botanical science is particularly remembered in the British fern genus Woodsia.

Snippet from early Journal Of Botany :

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2 Responses to Woods, Joseph : FAS, FLS, FGS (1776-1864)

  1. John Hewitt says:

    Thanks for this post, Mark. David E. Allen wrote a short article in Watsonia ,14, pgs 273 to 274 (1983) entitled ‘The Herbaria of Joseph Woods‘. The Rosa specimens at the Brit. Mus. Nat. History are referred to there, along with other depositions elsewhere (some probably lost). The SLBI has quite a large number of his sheets, both British and continental, including two separate folders of British Rosa spp (mostly considered by Wolley-Dod in 1934 to be unnamable due to nature of the material gathered). We also have at least one of Woods’ botanical manuscripts (on lichens).
    I would certainly be interested in seeing the specimens and manuscipt you have at BMNH at some future date. I would not wish to expand or amplify the biography at the moment since I am currently in process of trying to search out and check original C18th and C19th documents in London and Lewes.

  2. Mark Spencer says:

    At the Natural History Museum, London. there is a set of Rosa specimens that were owned by Woods, they are accompanied by a manuscript, which was probably written by him, detailing their origins. The collection came to NHM via a sale of specimens from the Linnean Society of London in 1963.
    Mark Spencer, Curator,
    British and Irish & Sloane Herbariums,
    Natural History Museum

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