Stan Wood was an exceptional fossil collector who, over a collecting career of more than 40 years, provided British palaeontology with an abundance and variety of new Carboniferous fossils, the like of which had not been collected since Victorian times. So, what made him a great collector? Here, with the help of Stan's family, his friends and colleagues, we try to provide the answer. There is no single factor that stands out, but a complex mixture of innate and learned behaviours that together produced a unique talent. Although he acquired an Open University degree in geology, Stan was largely self-taught as a collector and, in doing so, became an accomplished and confident field geologist. He was naturally curious, persistent and very observant, with a photographic memory. He was tough, very strong and enjoyed hard physical work. He was congenial, unorthodox and a calculated risk taker. He asked questions, tested ideas and had a healthy disregard for authority. He was systematic, kept detailed records and shared his discoveries. He not only loved collecting fossils but, in the process, discovered in himself the essential qualities of a true scientist.