Obituary: Sir Henry Wood

Henry Peart Wood, educationalist: born 30 November 1908; Lecturer, Manchester University 1937-44; Principal Lecturer, Jordanhill College of Education, Glasgow 1944-46, Vice-Principal 1947-49, Principal, 1949-71; CBE 1960; Kt 1967; Part-time Lecturer, Glasgow University 1972-78; Assessor in Education, Strathclyde University 1972-82, Visiting Professor 1978-84; married 1937 Isobel Stamp (one son, two daughters); died Glasgow 22 March 1994.

IF THE REPUTATION of education in Scotland was enhanced in its already splendid tradition in the 1950s and 1960s - which it certainly was - it was partly because key positions were occupied by a number of heavyweight, serious, effective men, their opinions about society forged by the circumstances of the Second World War.

One such pivotal position was the post of principal of the Jordanhill College of Education in Glasgow. Jordanhill was by a significant margin the biggest college of education in Britain in 1945, and vigorously expanding. On this account, it was potentially a dynamo of innovation in British education. That the potential was realised is to the credit above all others in a massively talented staff of Henry Wood. Truly can the Glasgow Herald reflect that it was a time when some of the giants of Scottish education were around and it was Wood they acknowledged as their leader.

In spring 1960 I wrote to Wood asking if I could see a senior member of his staff about a book I was writing to be published by the Civic Press of Glasgow, The Case for Ship-Schools. Instead of being fobbed off or told to see such and such a colleague I was invited to lunch by Wood himself. He turned out to be extremely helpful, as he was to countless others who brought serious educational ideas to him - and continued a sustained interest when the concept of ship-schools became reality with the cruises of the British India Dunera, Devonia, Nevada and Uganda. To my letter of thanks for being so constructive Wood, using what for him was a friendly form of address, wrote 'Dear Dalyell, Educators must never succumb to the deep slumber of decided opinions. John Stuart Mill. Yours sincerely HPW.' This laconic letter encapsulated Wood. Years later - when I dared to call him Harry - he told me that the leitmotiv of his life was scouring every form of practical educational advance. And so it was.

Unlike most of his contemporaries in senior positions north of the border Wood was not a Scot. Born in 1908, to a Northumberland family of farmers and shipbuilders, Wood went to Morpeth Grammar School and then followed naturally to Durham University to study physics. It was perhaps his good fortune that the professor of physics was W. E. Curtis whose particular interest was spectroscopy and related problems. In 1937 Wood, having taken his BSc and MSc in Durham under Curtis, became a lecturer at Manchester University. It was at this very moment that Patrick (later Lord) Blackett succeeded Sir Lawrence Bragg as the Langworthy Professor of Physics in the Victoria University of Manchester, where he built on Rutherford's work and created a leading international research laboratory.

Blackett told me years later that he thought that Wood would have been a leading member of the research department had it not been for the war. As it was, part of the reason for Wood's coming to Manchester was that his interest in spectroscopy dovetailed with Blackett's interest in tracing the disintegration of the nuclei of nitrogen atoms and tracking high-energy cosmic- ray particles. Blackett also remembered Wood as a quite outstanding young teacher of students and postgraduate students in the Manchester laboratory.

In those days the science faculty of Manchester University mixed in the Common Room with those of different disciplines since the university faculties were then all concentrated in one part of the city. Among the most influential academics of the day at Manchester was Sir Lewis Namier, Professor of Modern History, and Wood sometimes referred to the benefits he had gained in knowledge of rigorous academic discipline from the famous historian.

In 1940 Wood was commissioned into the RAF and volunteered for active service. Against his will, the authorities decided that he was more valuable lecturing on the theory and practice of flight to pilots and potential pilots - many of whom, to his sadness, were never to return from their missions.

It was this skill that tempted Wood to become principal lecturer in physics at Jordanhill in 1944. Soon he was catapulted by his obvious talent into becoming a vice- principal and by 1949 was the natural and unquestioned choice as Principal. For 22 years until he retired in 1971 he planned and improved education courses besides taking a deep interest in a huge building programme which transformed the Jordanhill campus and presented it with what were undoubtedly the finest facilities for teacher training anywhere in Britain. In particular Wood foresaw the vital importance of fully trained physical education teachers and was the driving force behind the physical education department of Jordanhill which was to become world famous in the field.

Wood, unlike some principals, was concerned about the national need and not only furthering his own institution. He worked hard to develop the Bachelor of Education degree courses at Craigie College, in Ayr, and other new Scottish education colleges. When he retired he became a sought-after lecturer in education at Glasgow University and assessor in education at Strathclyde University, which has now merged with Jordanhill.

Jordanhill was so large that it could easily have become one of those huge impersonal institutions which do little to inspire the affection of the young people who pass through it. Perhaps it was Wood's supreme achievement that he was able to develop a community spirit at Jordanhill in which students not only from Scotland but from around the world could feel that they had a place. He built up world-wide contacts which were to the benefit of his students. His wife, Isobel, provided him with considerable support and he took great pleasure in a close family one of whom is RFM Wood, the distinguished professor of surgery at St Bartholomew's Hospital, in London.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£36000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living