One day the famous Robert Wood wrote a joke book, How to Tell the Birds from the Flowers. The “Revised Manual of Flornithology for Beginners,” as described in its subtitle, was a great success, and eventually the book reached the U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt asked for the author’s other books, and there was exactly what happened a few years earlier to Queen Victoria when she ordered a collection of Lewis Carroll’s writings. A lot of science books were delivered to Roosevelt – for Robert Williams Wood’s main occupation was experimental physics. Yet, he definitely had a talent for fiction.
His very birth began with mystification when his father’s mother, Mrs. Wood, received a letter dated May 2 1868. The text read: “My dear Granny Wood! My mother can’t write today – and so she wants me to proclaim my arrival myself this morning. My journey wasn’t long, it was only 36 hours, but it felt arduous for me…” The letter was signed, “Robert Williams Wood.” The dreamer grew up, received an education and took up physics. But he never parted with jokes. He began his career as a lab technician, and one day his boss entered a room packed with humming equipment and discovered Wood reading a criminal novel passionately. The boss was not pleased to see his lab technician reading a detective during his working hours. “Excuse me,” said Wood, “but with noise that loud, one would hardly enjoy poetry.” Wood’s wit and fantasy were also evident in his work. When the spectroscope he built became overgrown with cobwebs after not being used for a long, Wood came up with an inventive way to clean it: he let a cat run through the pipe. At one of his lectures Robert Wood took 4 flat iron sheets, arranged them end to end and poured sand on the resulting plate. At one end of the site, he fixed a mirror that reflected the sky in the window, placed several miniature mountains and palm trees of paper in the sand, and heated the plate from below with burners. In this way, he came up a mirage. This is how Wood ended up on list of the most prominent physicists by the way of joke and invention.