Oral Histories in Meteoritics and Planetary Science – XV: John Wood


E-mail: derek.sears@nasa.gov


Abstract– John Wood (Fig. 1) was trained in Geology at Virginia Tech and M.I.T. To fulfill a minor subject requirement at M.I.T., he studied astronomy at Harvard, taking courses with Fred Whipple and others. Disappointed at how little was known in the 1950s about the origin of the earth, he seized an opportunity to study a set of thin sections of stony meteorites, on the understanding that these might shed light on the topic. This study became his Ph.D. thesis. He recognized that chondrites form a metamorphic sequence, and that idea proved surprisingly hard to sell. After brief service in the Army and a year at Cambridge University, John served for 3 years as a research associate with Ed Anders at the University of Chicago. He then returned to the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he spent the remainder of his career. At Chicago, he investigated the formation of the Widmanstätten structure, and found that the process informs us of the cooling rates of iron meteorites. Back in Cambridge, he collaborated with W. R. Van Schmus on a chondrite classification that incorporates metamorphic grade, and published on metal grains in chondrites, before becoming absorbed by preparations for the return of lunar samples by the Apollo astronauts. His group’s work on Apollo samples helped to establish the character of the lunar crust, and the need for a magma ocean to form it. Wood served as President of the Meteoritical Society in 1971–72 and received the Leonard Medal in 1978.

Figure 1.

Figure 1.

 John Wood.