May 2, 1868-August 11, 1955
BY G. H. DIEKE
When Professor R. W. Wood died on August 11, 1955, he was to the younger generation of physicists a colorful legend, a representative of the past. He was, however, by no means forgotten, as a lesser man might have been at the age of eighty-seven. Many stories were still circulating about him. When I recently paid a visit to the University of Wisconsin, which Wood had left in 1901, his exploits were being discussed there as if they had happened just recently instead of more than half a century before. His solid scientific achievements are now a matter of record. His active mind refused to accept retirement, and he visited his old room in the Physical Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University regularly until nearly the end, even though the infirmities of old age had gradually made themselves felt. He never gave up his curiosity about things and was still actively engaged in the revision of his book Physical Optics. Death came to him peacefully; he passed away during his sleep without any severe illness.
Wood's active period of scientific productivity coincided with the rise of atomic physics, and he made important
Reprinted from Biographical Memoirs, The Royal Society, London, England, 1956.