John Wood (explorer)


John Wood (1812 – 14 November 1871) was a
Scottish Scottish usually refers to something of, from, or related to Scotland, including: *Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family native to Scotland *Scottish English *Scottish national identity, the Scottish iden ...
naval officer An officer is a person who holds a position of authority as a member of an armed force A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an i ...
surveyor Surveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, art, and science of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. A land surveying professional is called a land survey ...

cartographer Cartography (; from Greek χάρτης ''chartēs'', "papyrus, sheet of paper, map"; and γράφειν ''graphein'', "write") is the study and practice of making and using maps. Combining science Science (from the Latin word ''scienti ...
and explorer, principally remembered for his exploration of
central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the east, and from Afghanistan and Iran in the south to Russia in the north, including the former Soviet Union, Soviet republics of the Sov ...

central Asia


Wood was born in
Perth, Scotland Perth (; sco, Perth; gd, Peairt ) is a city in central Scotland, on the banks of the . It is the of and the historic of . It had a population of about 47,430 in 2018. There has been a settlement at Perth since times. It is a natural moun ...

Perth, Scotland
. After schooling at Perth Academy, he joined the British Indian Navy, was made a Lieutenant, and soon demonstrated a flair for
surveying Surveying or land surveying is the technique, profession, art, and science of determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional positions of points and the distances and angles between them. A land surveying professional is called a land survey ...

. Many of the maps of southern Asia which he compiled remained standard for the rest of the 19th century. In 1835, aged twenty-two, he commanded the first
steamboat A steamboat is a boat that is propelled primarily by steam power from Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Cumbria, England A steam engine is a heat engine In thermodynamics Thermodynamics is a branch of physics that deals with heat, Wo ...

to paddle up the
Indus River The Indus ( ) is a transboundary river A transboundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. Bangladesh has the highest number of these rivers, including t ...

Indus River
and surveyed the river as he went. In 1838, he led an expedition that found one of the River Oxus's sources in central Asia. The
Royal Geographical Society The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) is a learned society A learned society (; also known as a learned academy, scholarly society, or academic association) is an organization that exists to promote an discipline (academia), academic disci ...
recognised his work by awarding him their
Patron's Medal The Royal Geographical Society's Gold Medal consists of two separate awards: the Founder's Medal 1830 and the Patron's Medal 1838. Together they form the most prestigious of the society's awards. They are given for "the encouragement and promoti ...
in 1841. After his central Asian explorations, Wood spent a year in
Wellington, New Zealand Wellington ( mi, Te Whanganui-a-TaraTe Whanganui-a-Tara is the Māori name for Wellington Harbour. The term is also used to refer to the city of Wellington Wellington ( mi, Te Whanganui-a-Tara ) is the capital city of New Zealand. It i ...

Wellington, New Zealand
, before moving back to India and establishing himself in
Sind Sindh (; sd, سنڌ; ur, , ; historically romanized as Sind) is one of the four provinces A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, admini ...

, a northern Indian province that is now part of Pakistan. In 1871, he decided to return to Britain, but before leaving made one final trip to
Shimla Shimla (; ; also known as Simla, the official name until 1972) is the capital and the largest city of the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh Himachal Pradesh (; ; "Province of the Snow-laden Mountains") is a States and union terr ...

in the
Punjab Punjab (; ; ; ; also as Panjāb or Panj-Āb) is a geopolitical, cultural, and in , specifically in the northern part of the , comprising areas of eastern and . The boundaries of the region are ill-defined and focus on historical accounts. ...

, where he fell ill. He nonetheless embarked on the voyage home, but died only two weeks after his arrival, on 14 November. His travels were published in 1872.Captain John Wood,
Journey to the Source of the River Oxus
', John Murray, London, 1872
He is buried on the eastern side of
Highgate Cemetery Highgate Cemetery is a place of burial in north London North London is the northern part of London London is the capital city, capital and List of urban areas in the United Kingdom, largest city of England and the United Kingdom. The c ...

Highgate Cemetery


* John Wood ** ''Narrative of a Journey to the Source of the River Oxus'', London:
John MurrayJohn Murray or John Murry may refer to: Arts and media Literature and music *John Murray (publishing house), a British publishing house, founded by John Murray (1745–1793) *John Murray (publisher, born 1778) (died 1843), second head of the pub ...
, 1841 ** ''Twelve Months in Wellington'', London: Pelham Richardson, 1843


Richard W. Hughes: ''The Rubies and Spinels of Afghanistan – A brief history''
1812 births 1871 deaths Burials at Highgate Cemetery Scottish explorers Royal Indian Navy officers Scottish surveyors {{Explorer-stub