Support Provided ByLearn More

Track and Fieldwork: Remembering Dr. Tom Wood

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

Receive emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

Perhaps soil science doesn’t seem like the most fast-paced business in the world. But Dr. Tom Wood was no slow poke.

A tropical soil biologist from the UK, Wood devoted his career to tiny invertebrates, like termites, and their impact on nutrient cycles. But when he wasn’t playing with bugs in the dirt, he took to leaving a trail of dust on the field. Wood was a skilled runner; he participated in numerous long-distance competitions and won the South Australia Marathon Championship in 1972—just shy of qualifying for the Munich Olympics! Wood also ran in the first London Marathon, never losing sight of the finish line, or his scientific aspirations.

Support Provided ByLearn More

In other words, Dr. Wood had a secret life before there was a Secret Life (…of Scientists & Engineers on NOVA, that is).

Track and Fieldwork: Remembering Dr. Tom Wood-tom-wood-former-marathon--006_.jpg
Dr. Tom Wood ran marathons—and experiments—with great skill and passion.

Among Tom’s dirty endeavors was an agriculture project in Nigeria that would become crucial to the field of soil biodiversity. With colleagues, Wood revealed that termites play a central role in carbon processing—a discovery with huge implications for soil fertility and sustainable agriculture. Though always speedy, Tom was able to unveil this important discovery by taking time to stop and appreciate the little things in life…like termites.

Read Dr. Wood’s Guardian obituary here. , and check out our own scientist/runner, Eva Vertes .