Anatomist, naturalist and anthropologist
Fredrick Wood-Jones
Frederic Wood-Jones, photographed in 1912
Image courtesy of Sutton Archives


As is often the case with biographical articles, especially if they are historical, the man is the main subject but there is usually a wife/partner and, frequently, children. In this instance Mrs Wood-Jones came from a particularly interesting and unusual family, so she will get a large mention here. Throughout this article we are using the surname Wood-Jones but the hyphen was 'acquired' and not always present in records.

Parents and siblings

Frederic was born on 23 January 1879 in Hackney, the son of builder, slate merchant and architect Charles Henry Jones (1850-1905) and Lucy Allin (1851-1932). On 17 June 1905 Charles was found at the Kemp Town Golf Links, Brighton (presumably what is now East Brighton Golf Club) with a self-inflicted bullet wound in the head. The inquest heard that he had not been in particularly good health and 'had worried unnecessarily about business matters'. The family appeared to be in Brighton on and off - there was a strong family connection with Brighton on Lucy's side - and their usual abode for many years was Harley Lodge, Enfield, although they did seem to have another residence of some kind in Lancing at the time of Charles's death. Charles and Lucy's children were as follows.

(all Hackney)
DiedOther information
Margaret Katherine1874 1948Married solicitor Albert Edgar Hodson (died 1920)
Elsie Muriel1876 1966Married surveyor Joseph Edgar Thomas (died 1953)
Frederic Wood18791954Married Gertrude Clunies-Ross/Blom (died 1957)

Incidentally, Lucy's mother, Martha Wood Edwards, had originally been married to the Reverend Frederick Allin, minister of the Independent Chapel in Penzance but he died in 1852, aged just 31. Then, in 1863, Martha married Frederick's recently widowed brother, George, and they eventually moved to Hackney, which is presumably how Lucy met Charles Jones.

Frederic's early years

In the 1891 census the Jones family was at 39 Regency Square, Brighton, which was probably a holiday rental, as it was fairly common in those days for professional people to take fashionable houses and the sea air, especially given the then good railway service to London. Frederic was educated at Enfield Grammar School. In 1901 everyone bar Margaret, who was now married, was at Harley Lodge, with Frederic described as a medical student. He was studying at The London Hospital, where he graduated as a Bachelor of Science in 1903 and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1904. He was very interested in biology and, encouraged by his mentor and friend, Arthur Keith, seized on a chance to become medical officer to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company in the Cocos-Keeling Islands. The Telegraph Company had personnel there for many years. Frederic's posting lasted from 1905 to 1906 and we need a substantial diversion here to introduce both the location and Gertrude Clunies-Ross.

The Cocos-Keeling Islands

These are a group of small islands in the Indian Ocean, about halfway between Australia and Sri Lanka; the population is now largely of Malay origin. You can read about their fascinating history and various name changes on Wikipedia and from now on we shall just call them the Islands.

The Islands were originally claimed for the British Empire in 1825 by Scottish sea captain John Clunies-Ross, but he had business elsewhere and sailed off, planning to return later with his family and settle there. While he was away, his former employer, Alexander Hare, a rich Englishman, moved in. Hare had been a slave trader and liked to keep a harem of indigenous women in whichever foreign clime he lived. The Islands were no exception; Hare set up in trade (mainly copra, coconuts being abundant thereabouts) and organised himself a large harem. When Clunies-Ross returned there was considerable strife and eventually Hare departed, John's sailors having misappropriated some of Hare's ladies.

Voyage of the Beagle
Voyage of the Beagle
Image source WEBMASTER at the German language Wikipedia> (CC Licence)

Cocos (Keeling) Islands Map
Cocos (Keeling) Islands Map
Image source CIA World Factbook via Wikipedia

The men of the Clunies-Ross family were known as the Kings of the Cocos Islands and much later George Clunies-Ross (third 'King' and grandson of the original John) made a considerable success out of exporting phosphates, derived from guano, from Christmas Island. Angus Trumble, writing on the web about the history of Christmas Island, describes the Clunies-Ross family as 'unconventional and vividly Conradian' and undeniably there is something of the 'Lord Jim' and other Conrad works about all this.

The reason why Frederic would have jumped at the chance to explore the Islands was the wealth of interest for the naturalist and anthropologist. Charles Darwin had been there in 1836 and here are just a couple of extracts from 'The Voyage of the Beagle'.
'About nine years ago, Mr Hare, a worthless character, brought from the East Indian archipelago a number of Malay slaves which now, including children, amount to more than a hundred.'

'As the islands consist entirely of coral and at one time must have existed as mere water-washed reefs, all their terrestrial productions must have been transported here by the waves of the sea.'
Gertrude was one of the many children of George Clunies-Ross and his wife Inin Malarat. George is pictured below on the front page of the Illustrated London News for 14 January 1899.

Front page of the Illustrated London News 14 January 1899.  Click on image to enlarge.
Front page of the Illustrated London News 14 January 1899.
Click on image to enlarge.

Mr Ross's compound on Christmas Island Native Hut on the Keeling Cocos
A group of natives on the tramway track The beach, boat houses and cocoa-nut trees
Scenes from the Keeling Cocos and Christmas Islands
Photos by James Fuller. Source Illustrated London News 14 January 1899.
Click on image to enlarge.
Top left: Mr Ross's compound on Christmas Island
Top right: Native Hut on the Keeling Cocos
Bottom left: A group of natives on the tramway track
Bottom right The beach, boat houses and cocoa-nut trees

Accompanying text to the above images.
Accompanying text to the above images.
Source: Illustrated London News 14 January 1899.

Before we leave the history of the Islands, they do have a major claim to fame dating from the First World War - the Battle of Cocos. On the night of 8/9 November 1914 a party from the German raider SMS Emden, a light cruiser, captured and disabled the communications station at Direction Island, but a distress call had already been transmitted and the Australian cruiser HMAS Sydney engaged Emden inflicting heavy casualties and severe damage, to the extent that the German ship beached on North Keeling Island and surrendered. However, a number of personnel from the original landing party managed to escape by stealing 'Ayesha', a schooner belonging to John Sidney Clunies-Ross (fourth 'King' and elder brother of Gertrude), and making their way by various means to Constantinople (Istanbul). You may be thinking that someone should have written a book about these exciting happenings, and they have: I read a good one several decades ago - 'The Last Cruise of the Emden' by Edwin P Hoyt (out of print but available second-hand). The Australian War Memorial website has a terrific collection of photographs about the Battle of Cocos and its aftermath (type emden + cocos in the search box), so I make no apology for including some here.

Emden beached on North Keeling Island.
Emden beached on North Keeling Island.
Image source Australian War Memorial

Landing party leaving the jetty to rejoin Emden and turning back when it sees Emden putting to sea. Ayesha is in the background.
Landing party leaving the jetty to rejoin Emden and turning back when it sees Emden putting to sea. Ayesha is in the background.
Image source Australian War Memorial

German captain and officers of Ayesha.
German captain and officers of Ayesha being presented to the Turkish authorities at Constantinople.
The man on the left in the fez is Enver Pasha, then War Minister of the Ottoman Empire.
Image source Australian War Memorial

John Sidney Clunies-Ross, on the right with the beard.
John Sidney Clunies-Ross, on the right with the beard, sitting crossed
legged on a barrel with an unidentified man, Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Image source National Library of Australia

As a postscript, John Sidney is said to have died of shock after a Japanese bombardment of the Islands in 1944.


Gertrude was born in the Islands on 9 September 1877; her mother died in 1889 and at some point her father took another wife, a native Malay girl called Ayesha. In the 1891 census Gertrude, then aged 13, and her older sister Mabel were visitors to a family in Queen Camel, Somerset.

I daresay that husbands were hard to come by in the Islands. Mabel ultimately married in New Zealand but her husband, Harold Sampson Kempthorne (Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery), was killed at Ypres in 1917 and Mabel herself died in 1924. Harold had worked for the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company in the Islands, which is undoubtedly how she met him. In about 1898 Gertrude married Axel Wilhelm Blom, a master mariner from Norway but born in Aalborg, Denmark, who probably died in 1937. From 1893 until 1900 Axel was mate of the yawl 'Clunies- Ross' in the Islands and from 1901 until 1902 of the schooner 'Tweed' , which plied a route between the Islands and Glasgow. There were five children, all born in the Islands and subsequently christened in England. Gertrude's father, who was in ill health, had eventually gone to live on the Isle of Wight and he died in 1910.

I believe that Gertrude brought her family to England to be with Frederic, as all of them (apart from Wilhelm, who was christened at West Norwood in 1906) were christened at St Andrew, Enfield on 1 July 1907. The children, who took the surname Clunies-Ross, were as follows.

NameBornDiedOther information
Ulla Alette18991946 LondonUnmarried
Wilhelm Erik (aka William Eric)1900?Epsom College 1911. Naval officer (Royal Indian Marine/Navy) and probably a reservist latterly.
May Inin19011974 CheshireMarried 1933 civil engineer Hugh Kennedy Russell (1892-1958)
George Clunies19051975 Victoria, AustraliaEpsom College 1915. Served in Australian Army WW2. Married 1931 North Adelaide Violet Elsie Fotheringham Ferguson (1905-92)
Honor Britta19061989 BerkshireMarried 1945 Paul Lionel Dell (1888-1951)
Note: Some of the information in the table has been taken from family trees on the internet and checked where possible or derives from 'educated guesswork' and has not necessarily been wholly verified from records.

Getting married was not an easy matter for Frederic and Gertrude, since there was the impediment of Mr Blom to be dealt with, but, armed with a formal document from the King of Norway dissolving her first marriage, they wed on 11June 1910 and set up home in 'New Selma', 6 Ashdown Road, Epsom, then a new build and later the home of the Tilden family. At that point Frederic was a Lecturer in Anatomy at St Thomas's Hospital.

6 Ashdown Road, Epsom (2016)
6 Ashdown Road, Epsom (2016)
Image courtesy of Peter Reed © 2016

I do not intend to chronicle Frederic's entire career in depth, since there is a comprehensive account in the Australian Dictionary of National Biography, but instead I want to cherry-pick some items that will hopefully be of interest to the general reader rather than scientists. Most people outside the scientific realms will not have heard of him but you will see as we go on that he was highly respected and influential in his areas of expertise.

Fredrick Wood-Jones
Frederic Wood-Jones, photographed in 1912
Image courtesy of Sutton Archives

The Archaeological Survey of Nubia 1907-08

This may sound dry (and it was, as the terrain was mostly desert) but if you're into Egypt and its treasures you can't fail to be interested in Nubia, which runs alongside the Nile, partly in Northern Sudan and partly in Southern Egypt. There had always been a problem with water in that region - either there was not enough of it or there was too much when the Nile produced its annual flood. The idea was to regulate the flow of water and store excess as a contingency. This resulted in the building of the Lower Aswan Dam from 1898 to 1902. However, the structure soon proved to have inadequate storage capacity for the long-term future, so that there was a plan to raise it, which is where Frederic came in.

There were many thousands of Nubian bodies buried in the desert and the opportunity was taken to disinter a large number in order to study their pathologies (i.e. broadly, to investigate the diseases they had suffered from and the effects they had had). The purpose of the 1907-08 expedition, led by Grafton Elliot Smith and Frederic, was to study Lower Nubian burial sites which were to be destroyed by the raising of the Dam. Photographs of many of the finds can be seen in the official report.

The Dam was raised again in 1929-33, but it still did not do the job and in the late 1950s the Soviet Union provided President Nasser with the funding to build the Aswan High Dam and Lake Nasser, with construction to begin in 1960. This led to a mammoth effort to move ancient monuments that would be destroyed in the process, the rock temples at Abu Simbel being among the most important. The Scottish artist David Roberts had visited Egypt and Nubia in the late 1830s and produced a series of paintings which are not only excellent in their own right but also a record of how the area looked before the very first Dam appeared and displaced many Nubians. (The book 'Yesterday and Today: Egypt' contains all the Roberts paintings of that area, together with modern-day photos of the scenes and monuments if they still exist in some form.)

Under the great door of Philae
Under the great door of Philae by David Roberts
Image Source Wikigallery

Philae was eventually subsumed by the ever-encroaching Dam works but not before its temple complex had been moved to nearby Agilkia Island. Here is Trajan's Kiosk in its original location at Philae.

The Hypaethral Temple, Philae
The Hypaethral Temple, Philae Trajan's Kiosk, now moved to the island of Agilkia
Photograph by Francis Frith, Source: National Galleries of Scotland via Flickr

Trajan's Kiosk on Agilkia Island, photographed in March 2001.
Trajan's Kiosk on Agilkia Island, photographed in March 2001.
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2016

Following Nubia Frederic held a number of teaching positions in Manchester and London and published 'Arboreal Man', which articulated his views on human origins, but more of that in due course.

Drawing of a Capped Langur nursing its offspring, by Frederic Wood Jones, 1916.
Drawing of a Capped Langur nursing its offspring, by Frederic Wood Jones, 1916.
Illustration from his book 'Arboreal Man', published 1916 and dedicated to his wife.

After the First World War, during which Frederick served briefly on a home posting as a Captain in the RAMC, Arthur Keith recommended him for the Chair of Anatomy at the University of Adelaide, a post which commenced in 1920 and ended in 1926.

Australia (1)

'Wood Jones was perhaps the greatest man of science to grace our shores, and I am very conscious of the fact that Charles Darwin visited Australia.' Dr Barry Christophers, Medical Journal of Australia, 5 August 1972

'Professor Frederic Wood Jones could not appreciate the rare nature of his own industry, versatility and audacity.' Peter Crowcroft, Director of the South Australian Museum, 1965

Faculty of Dentistry, University of Adelaide, 1925.
Faculty of Dentistry, University of Adelaide, 1925.
Frederic is in the front row, immediately left of centre.

Professor Wood Jones releasing the first koalas introduced to Kangaroo Island, 1923
Professor Wood Jones releasing the first koalas introduced to Kangaroo Island, 1923
Image source: State Library of South Australia

Note: The koala population on Kangaroo Island eventually became so large that a management programme was introduced to control their numbers (no culling), since they had consumed almost all of the manna gum trees, a type of eucalyptus, with adverse consequences for the habitat and environment.

Australia would have been very much up Frederic's street because of the diverse wildlife and geography, but it also interested him for another reason - Aboriginal anthropology. The modern theory, derived from analysis of DNA, claims to prove that Aboriginal Australians are descendants of the first people to migrate from Africa up to 75,000 years ago. Before leaving Australia for the first time (1926) Frederic co-founded the Anthropological Society of South Australia, which was dedicated to the study of the Australian Aboriginal people.


The next assignment was as Professor of Physical Anthropology at the Rockefeller University in Hawaii where, together with psychologist Professor Stanley David Porteous, he wrote 'The Matrix of the Mind. (In accordance with modern trends, Porteous has since been branded a racist by student factions and has been expunged from a building named after him at the University.)

Frederic was not a subscriber to Darwin's theories on the evolution of man; very simplistically it is believed that Darwin thought humans had descended from ancient apes, although some scientists now argue that he never said that and, if he did, then he was wrong. The Wood Jones idea was that we had evolved from tarsioids. This is all way beyond me and I will just show you two photos depicting our possible alternative relatives - or not, as the case may be.

Bohol_Tarsier Lucy
Left: A Philippine Tarsier, example of the Wood Jones theory. Image by MtoZ via Flickr
Right: 'Lucy', an ancient ape reconstructed from bones etc found in Ethiopia, 1974. Image by Mpinedag via Wikimedia

From Frederic's perspective the problem with the Hawaii appointment was that he didn't get to teach students, which was his real passion, and by all accounts he was brilliant at it. In 1930 he was offered the Chair of Anatomy at the University of Melbourne: the salary was insufficient but a group of Melbourne supporters, keen to have him, raised an extra guarantee.

Australia (2)

Image source: La Trobe Journal, Issue 74, Spring 2004, © State Library of Victoria

As had happened in Adelaide, the facilities and accommodation at Melbourne were inadequate but Frederic worked very hard to build up his department, with excellent results. His interest in Australian Aboriginals was not purely scientific: he was critical of the effects of Governmental efforts to 'civilise' them and was concerned for their welfare - in other words he was a humanitarian as well as everything else. As early as 1926 he had argued that 'civilising' these people, whether on missions or cattle stations, meant extermination. He also suggested that Government aid was 'conscience money that served to hide the fact that aboriginals were being dispossessed' (source: Cultural Anthropology: Tribes, States and The Global System' by John H Bodley).

In 1932-33 Frederic took time out to become temporary director of anatomy at the Peiping (Peking, now Beijing) Union Medical College in China, which was at that time funded by the Rockefeller Institute, and still exists today under the auspices of the Chinese Government.

Rockefeller Institut in Peking
Rockefeller Institut in Peking
Image source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 137-009049 / Salzmann, E.v. / CC-BY-SA 3.0

It seems that Frederic then wanted to return to England, or at least there was an appointment he wanted, which was as Conservator of the Hunterian Museum, a post just vacated by his friend Arthur Keith: the Hunterian was the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons, originally built in the early 19th century to house the collection of the eminent surgeon, anatomist and collector John Hunter (1728-93). This job would have been paradise for Frederic, but he was rejected, so continued with his work and explorations in Australia.

We haven't mentioned the family for a long time but they were with him in Australia. Rather curiously perhaps, on a couple of ships' passenger lists, Ulla Clunies-Ross is described as a hand weaver and Honor as a weaver, so what were they up to exactly? I have no real idea, but another closely related branch of the family, headed by Sir Ian Clunies-Ross, was heavily involved in textiles. In 1923 Ulla and Honor had accompanied Frederic and others on a short exploration of the flora and fauna of the Pearson Islands, which are off the Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. And, in fact, Mrs Wood-Jones was a Fellow of the Zoological Society and the Royal Geographical Society, which I think were honorary awards, but nevertheless they indicate that Gertrude was scientifically active in her own right.

Melbourne Medical School's anatomy department
Staff of the University of Melbourne Medical School's anatomy department, 1936 (Frederic is on the left).
Image source: State Library of Victoria.

I could continue ad infinitum with what Frederic did in Australia but we need to move on in a moment. However, I cannot let this period pass without mentioning a side to his character which emphasises how human he was.

Childrens Book Review
Review of a book for children written and illustrated by Frederic and published for Christmas 1934.
Note: The grandson referred to in the clipping is apparently Bruce Axel Clunies-Ross (born 1933),
son of George Clunies Clunies-Ross.
Image source:


It had been Frederic's intention to retire and come home to England at the end of 1938, by which time he would be nearly 60 years of age, and it can probably be assumed that his work overseas had taken quite a toll on him. However, he could not resist accepting the Chair of Anatomy at Manchester University, where he could indulge his love of teaching. And then, rather late in the day (1945) he hooked the job he had been after for some time - Professor of Human and Comparative Anatomy at the Royal College of Surgeons and curator of the Hunterian collection. The College had been bombed in 1941 and there was much work to be done to salvage specimens and exhibits, although some had been destroyed completely. In 1951 the rules forced him to retire but he was made honorary curator and carried on with his work until shortly before his death from lung cancer on 29 September 1954. Gertrude died on 12 October 1957, then living in Didsbury, Manchester. They were indeed an extraordinary couple.

Main sources>
Australian Dictionary of National Biography>
La Trobe Journal, No. 74, Spring 2004>

Note: Many people don't know of the Hunterian Museum, which is in Lincoln's Inn Fields (very near to Holborn Tube station) and may prefer to visit the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum. However, if you want to see some seriously amazing exhibits (probably best not to take young children), give the Hunterian a whirl, and you can take Fiona Bruce's word for the fact that it's fascinating.

Hunterian Collection
Part of the Hunterian Collections on display at The Royal College of Surgeons of England
Image by Paul Dean (StoneColdCrazy) via Wikipedia.

Linda Jackson, July 2016
With thanks to Kevin McDonnell for suggesting this page
and Sutton Archives Past on Glass Team for their help and support.