John Wood was born in the late 1850s in Manchester, England. He worked as a Patternmaker before emigrating to South Australia in 1880, aboard the ship John Elder.
In 1888 he was appointed the Surgical Mechanic and Instrument Custodian to the Adelaide Hospital. He put his skills as a patternmaker to work, manufacturing wooden and iron splints. He also prepared all the ligatures and kangaroo tendons for the hospital, with some of these exported back to England.
He was a popular amongst the surgeons and attended them when they were operating. His expert knowledge of surgical equipment was well recognised with medical students paying him to teach them the instruments names and uses.
In 1888, He along with Dr William Gardner designed a prototype for the operating table used in the No. 1 Operating Theatre. This prototype, which still exists today, featured moving parts to demonstrate the height adjustable components, with two side sections and a head/shoulder rest that could be manually adjusted. The table surface had a bordered channel for draining fluids into a collection receptacle.
He died at the hospital on September 25, 1926 at the age of 68. He was succeeded in his position by his son.