Wood completed his medical education in Edinburgh, before setting up practice in Musselburgh. Ca. 1756 he returned to Edinburgh, where he became a freeman of the Incorporation of Surgeons, of which he was later elected to be Deacon (1762-64). He maintained his surgical practice until a few years before this death.
Wood was a popular figure in late 18th century Edinburgh with a reputation for a warm and generous nature. In later years, he became a friend of poet Robert Burns, who referred to him as "one of the noblest men in God's world."3
Even Lord Byron wrote about him in his poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage:
Oh! for an hour of him who knew no feud, The octogenarian chief, the kind old Sandy Wood
Alexander Boswell, the eldest son of the biographer, wrote the following as part of an epitaph for Wood:
But cold the heart that feels no genial glow,
Pondering on him whose ashes sleep below:
Whose vivid mind, with grasping power, could reach
Truths that the plodding schools can never teach.
Who scorned, in honesty, the spacious wiles
Of dull importance, or of fawning smiles:
Who scouted feelings frittered and refined,
But had an ample heart for all mankind.4
- 1. Daughter of George Chalmers, a Writer to the Signet
- 2. One of their children, also named Alexander, became Chief Secretary for the government of Malta.
- 3. http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18500/18500-h/18500-h.htm
- 4. Quoted from Kay, J. (1842). A series of original Portraits and Caricature Etchings. p. 163
Wood was a social friend of Boswell's, who also attended to and performed an autopsy on Boswell's son, David, who died in infancy.