Click for Bookshop

Stanley (Stan) Wood


1939 - 2012

Fossil collector. Born in Edinburgh, Wood left school for an apprenticeship in a shipyard, going on to work in engineering and then insurance. He began fossil-collecting as a hobby in the late 1960s but was soon actively exploring the Central Belt of Scotland looking for unique fossil species. He made important discoveries of fossil fish on the shore at Wardie in Edinburgh and realised he could make money selling this material to museums and collectors. This led him to set up a business in Livingston in 1983 which became Mr Wood's Fossil Shop in Edinburgh's Grassmarket four years later, dealing internationally.

His most important discovery was in East Kirkton Quarry near Bathgate in 1984. Westlothiana lizziae, known as Lizzie the Lizard, was at the time of its discovery considered to be the oldest known reptile and therefore the ancestor of the dinosaurs. This was sold to the Royal Museum in Edinburgh for £190,000, with help from several organisations including the Livingston Development Corporation. He identified other productive localities included an opencast coal mine near Cowdenbeath, Foulden in the Scottish Borders, and a quarry at Mumbie in Dumfries and Galloway. He went on to discover a diverse range of fossils, including fish, early land-based tetrapods, millipedes, scorpions and plants at Willie's Hole on the Whiteadder Water in the Scottish Borders. Such a complete Early Carboniferous ecosystem had never been seen before.

Wood found 32 new species of fish, tetrapods, arthropods and a plant, several of which have been named after him; including a millipede Woodesmus sheari, an amphibian Balanerpeton woodi, a shark known as Diplodoselache woodi and two early tetrapods Tantallognathus woodi and Mesanerpeton woodi. Other unique discoveries included the Bearsden shark, a previously unknown member of the Stethacanthidae family and the head of a scorpion, the largest ever found, with a width of 60 cm / 2 feet. His discoveries were of international importance particularly as several filled a gap in the fossil record at around 350 million years ago, known as Romer's Gap.

He featured in Sir David Attenborough's Lost Worlds, Vanished Lives series (1989) and was the subject of a BBC television documentary Stan, Stan, the Fossil Man (1983).

Wood died at his home in Selkirk. A set of scientific papers were published in 2018 by the Royal Society of Edinburgh celebrating his life and work.


Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry arrow

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better