Frederic Wood Jones

Frederic Wood Jones FRS[1] (23 January 1879 – 29 September 1954), usually referred to as Wood Jones, was a British observational naturalist, embryologist, anatomist and anthropologist, who spent considerable time in Australia.[2][3][4][5][6][7]

Wood Jones
Frederic Wood Jones

(1879-01-23)23 January 1879
Died29 September 1954(1954-09-29) (aged 75)
AwardsClarke Medal (1941)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career


Jones was born in London, England, and wrote extensively on early humans, including their arboreal adaptations (Arboreal Man), and was one of the founding fathers of the field of modern physical anthropology. A friend of Le Gros Clark, Wood Jones was also known for his controversial belief in the view that acquired traits could be inherited, and thus his opposition to Darwinism. He taught anatomy and physical anthropology at London School of Medicine for Women, University of Adelaide, University of Hawaii, University of Melbourne, University of Manchester and the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Jones was president of the Royal Society of South Australia in 1927, and was awarded the RM Johnston Memorial Medal[8] by The Royal Society of Tasmania in 1925 and the Clarke Medal by the Royal Society of New South Wales in 1941. He was elected President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland for 1943 to 1945.[9]

In 1910 in London, he married Gertrude Clunies-Ross, the fourth daughter of George Clunies-Ross.[10]

Tarsian hypothesisEdit

"Wood Jones, prior to the 1930s, promoted that the human line evolved from a very generalized primate from which avoided going through a hominoid ape stage. His tradition of interpretation... the human line avoided altogether the hominoid phase of evolution... [common] ancestor was conceived to be tarsoid-like form... the rise of the bipedal posture in humans was not believed to have been preceded by a brachiation or a pre-brachiation phase."[11]

Jones favoured a long separate, non-anthropoid ancestry for humans. He believed that science should search as far back as the primitive tarsioid stock to find a sufficiently generalised form that would be the common ancestor of man, monkeys and the anthropoid apes. The tarsian hypothesis of Jones, which he held to from 1918[12] until his death, claimed that the human line of development did not diverge from that of apes or monkeys but from much earlier, before the Oligocene 30 million years ago, from a common ancestor with a primitive primate group of which the only other survivor is the Tarsier.[13] Wood Jones in his The Ancestry Of Man (1923) described his Tarsian hypothesis as follows:

"The thesis then put forward was that the general notion that Man had evolved along the line of the Linnean Classification was wrong. Far from the Lemurs, the Monkeys, and the Anthropoid Apes being landmarks upon the line of human progress, it was contended that the human stock arose from a Tarsioid form, that the Lemurs were not ancestors of the Tarsioids and that the Monkeys and Apes were more specialised away from the Tarsioids than was Man himself, and, therefore, were not his ancestors, but rather his collateral descendants from a former assemblage of animals, of which we have only one direct living descendant, in the form of Tarsius spectrum."

Wood Jones explained common structural features between Man and the apes (and monkeys) through convergent evolution. In 1948 he wrote:

"If the primate forms immediately ancestral to the human stock are ever to be revealed, they will be utterly unlike the slouching ‘ape men’ of which some have dreamed and of which they have made casts and pictures during their waking hours."[14]


Jones rejected organised religion and idea of an anthropomorphic deity. He believed there was a cosmic mind behind nature. He defended the holistic philosophy of Jan Smuts and was a strong critic of Darwinism. His philosophical views are discussed in his book Design and Purpose (1942).[15][16]


Arboreal Man (1916)
Arboreal Man (1916)

As well as numerous scientific papers, books he authored, coauthored and edited include:

  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1912). Coral and Atolls. A History and Description of the Keeling-Cocos Islands, with an account of their Fauna and Flora, and a Discussion of the Method of Development and Transformation of Coral Structures in General. Lovell, Reeve & Co Ltd: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1916). Arboreal Man. Edward Arnold: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1918). The Problem of Man's Ancestry. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1920). The Principles of Anatomy as Seen in the Hand. J. & A. Churchill: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1923). The Ancestry Of Man. Douglas Price Memorial Lecture, No.3. R G. Gilles & Co.: Brisbane.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1923). The Position of Anatomy in the Modern Medical Curriculum and the Conception of Cytoclesis. Hassell Press: Adelaide.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1923–25). The Mammals of South Australia. Parts I-III. Handbooks of the Flora and Fauna of South Australia. Government Printer: Adelaide.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1925). Unscientific Essays. Edward Arnold & Co: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1929). Man's Place Among the Mammals. Edward Arnold: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1934). Sea Birds Simplified. Edward Arnold & Co.: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1934). Unscientific Excursions. Edward Arnold & Co: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1939). Life and Living. Kegan Paul: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1942). Design and Purpose. Kegan Paul: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1943). Habitat and Heritage. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1946). Structure and Function as Seen in the Foot. Bailliere Tindall and Cox: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1946). The Principles of Anatomy as Seen in the Hand. Bailliere Tindall and Cox: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1948). Hallmarks of Mankind. Bailliere Tindall and Cox: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (1953). Trends of Life. Edward Arnold: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood. (Ed.). (1946). Buchanan's Manual of Anatomy. Bailliere Tindall and Cox: London.
  • Jones, Frederic Wood; & Porteus, Stanley David. (1928). Matrix of the Mind. University of Hawaii: Honolulu.


  1. ^ a b Clark, W. E. L. G. (1955). "Frederic Wood Jones 1879-1954". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1: 118–126. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1955.0009.
  2. ^ Christophers, B. E. (1997). "Frederic Wood Jones: His Major Books and How They Were Reviewed". ANZ Journal of Surgery. 67 (9): 645–659. doi:10.1111/j.1445-2197.1997.tb04617.x. PMID 9322706.
  3. ^ Clark, W. E. (1955). "In memoriam: Frederic Wood Jones, D.Sc., F.R.C.S., F.R.S., 1879-1954; an appreciation". Journal of Anatomy. 89 (2): 255–267. PMC 1244790. PMID 14367223.
  4. ^ W. E. Le Gros Clark (2004). "Jones, (Frederic) Wood (1879–1954), anatomist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34226. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Christophers, Barry E. (Compiler). (1974). A List of the Published Works of Frederic Wood Jones, 1879–1954. Greensborough Press: Melbourne
  6. ^ Photograph from University of Adelaide Library website Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ MacCallum, Monica: Jones, Frederic Wood (1879–1954), Australian Dictionary of Biography Accessed 27 October 2011.
  8. ^ "Past Recipients". Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  9. ^ "The Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland – Presidents of the Society" (PDF). The Anatomical Society. Retrieved 21 October 2012.
  10. ^ "Jones, Frederic Wood". Who's Who: 1388. 1920.
  11. ^ Delisle, R. G. (2007). Debating humankind's place in nature, 1860-2000: the nature of paleoanthropology. Prentice Hall. p. 185.
  12. ^ Wood Jones proposed the Tarsian hypothesis on the 27th Feb. 1918 at a lecture entitled "The Origin of Man" at King's College, London, later published in Animal life and human progress (1919). ed. A. Dendy, Constable, London. Wood Jones followed with the booklet The Problem of Man's Ancestry (1919) discussing his theory the same year, followed by three other books defending the theory: The Ancestry Of Man (1923), Man's Place Among the Mammals (1929) and Hallmarks of Mankind (1948).
  13. ^ Information, Reed Business (3 July 1958). "New Scientist". Reed Business Information. Retrieved 10 November 2017 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ Hallmarks of Mankind. (1948). London: Bailliere Tindall and Cox. p. 86.
  15. ^ Bowler, Peter J. (2001). Reconciling Science and Religion: The Debate in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain. University of Chicago Press. p. 146
  16. ^ MacCallum, Monica. (1983). "Jones, Frederic Wood (1879–1954)". Australian Dictionary of Biography.
Preceded by Clarke Medal
Succeeded by