John Woodward

Dr John Woodward, physician, was buried in the nave of Westminster Abbey on 1st May 1728. His family origins are not known. He was taught by Charles II's physician and later became professor of physic at Gresham College in London. A noted antiquary he was also a collector of fossils and in 1693 he became a fellow of the Royal Society. John died unmarried. A white marble monument, by sculptor Peter Scheemakers, was erected in the north aisle of the nave in 1732 near the grave. The Latin inscription can be translated:

Sacred to the memory of John Woodward, a doctor the most celebrated, and a philosopher the most exalted, whose ability and learning his writings diffused over the face of nearly the whole Globe, but whose liberality and affection for his country the university of Cambridge, enriched by his munificence and embellished by his wealth, declares to perpetuity. Born on the Kalends of May [1 May] 1665. He died on the seventh Kalends of May [25 April] 1728. Colonel Richard King, a Commissioner of Public Works, to a friend most deserving, decreed this sepulchre.

A figure of Philosophy sits on a rock holding a portrait medallion of Woodward on her knee. Her right hand holds an inverted sceptre and she leans her elbow on two books. Above is the doctor's coat of arms: azure, a pale between two eagles displayed argent (a blue shield with two silver eagles). On the rock are scattered shells, fossils and plants.

Further reading

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


1st May 1665


25th April 1728


Scientist; physician



Memorial Type

Grave; statue

Material Type


John Woodward
John Woodward by and published by William Humphrey, after Unknown artist

© National Portrait Gallery, London [Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 3.0]

John Woodward
John Woodward statue

This image can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library

Image © 2024 Dean and Chapter of Westminster