In 1798, there appeared in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society a paper by James Wood, purporting to prove the fundamental theorem of algebra, to the effect that every non-constant polynomial with real coefficients has at least one real or complex zero. Since the first generally accepted proof of this result was given by Gauss in 1799, Wood's paper deserves careful examination. After giving a brief outline of Wood's career, I describe the argument of his paper. His proof turns out to be incomplete as it stands, but it contains an original idea, which was to be used later, in the same context, by von Staudt, Gordan and others, without knowledge of Wood's work. After putting Wood's work in context, I conclude by showing how his idea can be used to prove the complex form of the fundamental theorem of algebra, stating that every non-constant polynomial with complex coefficients has at least one zero in the complex field.