|Born||29 November 1627|
Black Notley, Essex, England
|Died||17 January 1705 77) (aged|
Black Notley, Essex, England
|Alma mater|| Trinity College, Cambridge |
St Catharine's College, Cambridge
|Fields||Botany, Zoology, Natural history, Natural theology|
|Academic advisors||James Duport|
|Author abbrev. (botany)||Ray|
John Ray FRS (29 November 1627 – 17 January 1705) was a Christian English naturalist widely regarded as one of the earliest of the English parson-naturalists. Until 1670, he wrote his name as John Wray. From then on, he used 'Ray', after "having ascertained that such had been the practice of his family before him". He published important works on botany, zoology, and natural theology. His classification of plants in his Historia Plantarum, was an important step towards modern taxonomy. Ray rejected the system of dichotomous division by which species were classified according to a pre-conceived, either/or type system [ further explanation needed ], and instead classified plants according to similarities and differences that emerged from observation. He was among the first to attempt a biological definition for the concept of species , as "a group of morphologically similar organisms arising from a common ancestor".  Another significant contribution to taxonomy was his division of plants into those with two seedling leaves (dicotyledons) or only one (monocotyledons), a division used in taxonomy today. 
John Ray was born in the village of Black Notley in Essex. He is said to have been born in the smithy, his father having been the village blacksmith. After studying at Braintree school, he was sent at the age of sixteen to Cambridge University: studying at Trinity College.  Initially at Catharine Hall, his tutor was Daniel Duckfield, and later transferred to Trinity where his tutor was James Duport, and his intimate friend and fellow-pupil the celebrated Isaac Barrow. Ray was chosen minor fellow [lower-alpha 1] of Trinity in 1649, and later major fellow. [lower-alpha 2] He held many college offices, becoming successively lecturer in Greek (1651), mathematics (1653), and humanity (1655), praelector (1657), frias (1657), and college steward (1659 and 1660); and according to the habit of the time, he was accustomed to preach in his college chapel and also at Great St Mary's, long before he took holy orders on 23 December 1660. Among these sermons were his discourses on The wisdom of God manifested in the works of the creation,  and Deluge and Dissolution of the World. Ray was also highly regarded as a tutor and he communicated his own passion for natural history to several pupils. Ray's student, Isaac Barrow, helped Francis Willughby learn mathematics and Ray collaborated with Willughby later.   It was at Trinity that he came under the influence of John Wilkins, when the latter was appointed master of the college in 1659. 
After leaving Cambridge in 1663 he spent some time travelling both in Britain and the continent.  In 1673, Ray married Margaret Oakley of Launton in Oxfordshire; in 1676 he went to Middleton Hall near Tamworth, and in 1677 to Falborne (or Faulkbourne) Hall in Essex. Finally, in 1679, he removed to his birthplace at Black Notley, where he afterwards remained. His life there was quiet and uneventful, although he had poor health, including chronic sores. Ray kept writing books and corresponded widely on scientific matters, collaborating with his doctor and contemporary Samuel Dale.  He lived, in spite of his infirmities, to the age of seventy-seven, dying at Black Notley. He is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul where there is a memorial to him. He is widely regarded as one of the earliest of the English parson-naturalists. 
At Cambridge, Ray spent much of his time in the study of natural history, a subject which would occupy him for most of his life, from 1660 to the beginning of the eighteenth century.   When Ray found himself unable to subscribe as required by the ‘Bartholomew Act’ of 1662 he, along with 13 other college fellows, resigned his fellowship on 24 August 1662 rather than swear to the declaration that the Solemn League and Covenant was not binding on those who had taken it.  Tobias Smollett quoted the reasoning given in the biography of Ray by William Derham:
"The reason of his refusal was not (says his biographer) as some have imagined, his having taken the solemn league and covenant; for that he never did, and often declared that he ever thought it an unlawful oath: but he said he could not say, for those that had taken the oath, that no obligation lay upon them, but feared there might." 
His religious views were generally in accord with those imposed under the restoration of Charles II of England, and (though technically a nonconformist) he continued as a layman in the Established Church of England. 
From this time onwards he seems to have depended chiefly on the bounty of his pupil Francis Willughby, who made Ray his constant companion while he lived. They travelled extensively, carrying out field observations and collecting specimens of botany, ornithology, ichthyology, mammals, reptiles and insects. Initially they agreed that Ray would take responsibility for the plants, and Willughby for birds, beasts, fishes, and insects. Willughby arranged that after his death, Ray would have 6 shillings a year for educating Willughby's two sons. 
In the spring of 1663 Ray started together with Willughby and two other pupils (Philip Skippon and Nathaniel Bacon  ) on a tour through Europe, from which he returned in March 1666, parting from Willughby at Montpellier, whence the latter continued his journey into Spain. He had previously in three different journeys (1658, 1661, 1662) travelled through the greater part of Great Britain, and selections from his private notes of these journeys were edited by George Scott in 1760, under the title of Mr Ray's Itineraries. Ray himself published an account of his foreign travel in 1673, entitled Observations topographical, moral, and physiological, made on a Journey through part of the Low Countries, Germany, Italy, and France. From this tour Ray and Willughby returned laden with collections, on which they meant to base complete systematic descriptions of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. 
In 1667 Ray was elected Fellow of the Royal Society,  and in 1669 he and Willughby published a paper on Experiments concerning the Motion of Sap in Trees. In 1671, he presented the research of Francis Jessop on formic acid to the Royal Society. 
Following Willughby's death in 1672, Ray took on the responsibility of bringing both Willughby's work and his own to publication. Ray was left with an ornithology and ichthyology to edit as well as his own work dealing with mammals, reptiles and insects. Although he presented the Ornithologia (1676) as Wullughby's, he made extensive contributions to the work. His task became more difficult after the death of Lady Cassandra, Willughby's mother, on July 25, 1675. Lady Cassandra had supported Ray's continued work, but the widow Willughby had no interest in her late husband's scientific interests or his scientific friends. Ray was no longer allowed to instruct the children, and Ray and his wife Margaret Oakley were forced to leave the Willughby household in Middleton. Critically, Ray lost access to the Willughby collections, notes and manuscripts at this time. The plants gathered on his British tours had already been described in his Catalogus plantarum Angliae (1670), which formed the basis for later English floras. He had likely already used the botanical collections to lay much of the groundwork of his Methodus plantarum nova (1682), His great Historia generalis plantarum appeared in 3 vols. in 1686, 1688, 1704. 
In the 1690s, he published three volumes on religion—the most popular being The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation (1691), an essay describing evidence that all in nature and space is God's creation as in the Bible is affirmed. In this volume, he moved on from the naming and cataloguing of species like his successor Carl Linnaeus. Instead, Ray considered species' lives and how nature worked as a whole, giving facts that are arguments for God's will expressed in His creation of all 'visible and invisible' (Colossians 1:16). Ray gave an early description of dendrochronology, explaining for the ash tree how to find its age from its tree-rings. 
Ray's work on plant taxonomy spanned a wide range of thought, starting with an approach that was predominantly in the tradition of the herbalists and Aristotelian, but becoming increasingly theoretical and finally rejecting Aristotelianism. Despite his early adherence to Aristotelian tradition, his first botanical work, the Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium (1660),  was almost entirely descriptive, being arranged alphabetically. His model was an account by Bauhin of the plants growing around Basel in 1622 and was the first English county flora, covering about 630 species.  However at the end of the work he appended a brief taxonomy  which he stated followed the usage of Bauhin and other herbalists.  
Ray's system, starting with his Cambridge catalogue, began with the division between the imperfect or lower plants (Cryptogams), and perfect (planta perfecta) higher plants (Seed plants). The latter he divided by life forms, e.g. trees (arbores), shrubs (frutices), subshrubs (suffrutices) and herbaceous plants (herbae) and lastly grouping them by common characteristics. The trees he divided into 8 groups, e.g. Pomiferae (including apple and pear). The shrubs he placed in 2 groups, Spinosi (Berberis etc.) and Non Spinosi (Jasmine etc.). The subshrubs formed a single group and the herbs into 21 groups. 
Division of Herbae;
As outlined in his Historia Plantarum (1685–1703): 
Ray was the first person to produce a biological definition of species , in his 1686 History of Plants:
Ray published about 23 works, depending on how they are counted. The biological works were usually in Latin, the rest in English.  His first publication, while at Cambridge, was the Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium (1660), followed by many works, botanical, zoological,theological and literary.  Until 1670, he wrote his name as John Wray. From then on, he used 'Ray', after "having ascertained that such had been the practice of his family before him". 
Including the various editions, there are 172 works of Ray, of which most are rare. The only libraries with substantial holdings are all in England.  p153 The list in order of holdings is:
Ray's biographer, Charles Raven, commented that "Ray sweeps away the litter of mythology and fable... and always insists upon accuracy of observation and description and the testing of every new discovery".  p10 Ray's works were directly influential on the development of taxonomy by Carl Linnaeus.
The Ray Society, named after John Ray, was founded in 1844. It is a scientific text publication society and registered charity, based at the Natural History Museum, London, which exists to publish books on natural history, with particular (but not exclusive) reference to the flora and fauna of the British Isles. As of 2017, the Society had published 179 volumes. 
The John Ray Society (a separate organisation) is the Natural Sciences Society at St Catharine's College, Cambridge. It organises a programme of events of interest to science students in the college. 
In 1986, to mark the 300th anniversary of the publication of Ray's Historia Plantarum, there was a celebration of Ray's legacy in Braintree, Essex. A "John Ray Gallery" was opened in the Braintree Museum. 
The John Ray Initiative (JRI) is an educational charity that seeks to reconcile scientific and Christian understandings of the environment. It was formed in 1997 in response to the global environmental crisis and the challenges of sustainable development and environmental stewardship. John Ray's writings proclaimed God as creator whose wisdom is "manifest in the works of creation", and as redeemer of all things. JRI aims to teach appreciation of nature, increase awareness of the state of the global environment, and to promote a Christian understanding of environmental issues. 
Conrad Gessner was a Swiss physician, naturalist, bibliographer, and philologist. Born into a poor family in Zürich, Switzerland, his father and teachers quickly realised his talents and supported him through university, where he studied classical languages, theology and medicine. He became Zürich's city physician, but was able to spend much of his time on collecting, research and writing. Gessner compiled monumental works on bibliography and zoology and was working on a major botanical text at the time of his death from plague at the age of 49. He is regarded as the father of modern scientific bibliography, zoology and botany. He was frequently the first to describe species of plants or animals in Europe, such as the tulip in 1559. A number of plants and animals have been named after him.
The year 1686 in science and technology involved some significant events.
Francis Willughby FRS was an English ornithologist and ichthyologist, and an early student of linguistics and games.
The year 1660 in science and technology involved some significant events.
The year 1676 in science and technology involved some significant events.
Johann Jacob Dillen Dillenius was a German botanist. He is known for his Hortus Elthamensis on the rare plants around Eltham, London, and for his Historia muscorum, a natural history of lower plants including mosses, liverworts, hornworts, lycopods, algae, lichens and fungi.
John Gerard was an English herbalist with a large garden in Holborn, now part of London. His 1,484-page illustrated Herball, or Generall Historie of Plantes, first published in 1597, became a popular gardening and herbal book in English in the 17th century. Except for some added plants from his own garden and from North America, Gerard's Herbal is largely a plagiarized English translation of Rembert Dodoens's 1554 herbal, itself highly popular in Dutch, Latin, French and other English translations. Gerard's Herball drawings of plants and the printer's woodcuts are mainly derived from Continental European sources, but there is an original title page with a copperplate engraving by William Rogers. Two decades after Gerard's death, the book was corrected and expanded to about 1,700 pages.
Pierre Magnol was a French botanist. He was born in the city of Montpellier, where he lived and worked for most of his life. He became Professor of Botany and Director of the Royal Botanic Garden of Montpellier and held a seat in the Académie Royale des Sciences de Paris for a short while. He was one of the innovators who devised the botanical scheme of classification. He was the first to publish the concept of plant families as they are understood today, a natural classification of groups of plants that have features in common.
The history of plant systematics—the biological classification of plants—stretches from the work of ancient Greek to modern evolutionary biologists. As a field of science, plant systematics came into being only slowly, early plant lore usually being treated as part of the study of medicine. Later, classification and description was driven by natural history and natural theology. Until the advent of the theory of evolution, nearly all classification was based on the scala naturae. The professionalization of botany in the 18th and 19th century marked a shift toward more holistic classification methods, eventually based on evolutionary relationships.
Nepenthes distillatoria is a tropical pitcher plant endemic to Sri Lanka. It was the second Nepenthes species to be described in print and the first to be formally named under the Linnaean system of taxonomy. It is therefore the type species of the genus.
William Thomas Stearn was a British botanist. Born in Cambridge in 1911, he was largely self-educated and developed an early interest in books and natural history. His initial work experience was at a Cambridge bookshop, but he also had a position as an assistant in the university botany department. At the age of 29 he married Eldwyth Ruth Alford, who later became his collaborator, and he died in London in 2001.
George Johnston was a Scottish physician and naturalist.
The Ray Society is a scientific text publication society that publishes works devoted principally to British flora and fauna. As of 2019, it had published 181 volumes. Its publications are predominantly academic works of interest to naturalists, zoologists, botanists and collectors.
Philosophia Botanica was published by the Swedish naturalist and physician Carl Linnaeus (1707–1778) who greatly influenced the development of botanical taxonomy and systematics in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is "the first textbook of descriptive systematic botany and botanical Latin". It also contains Linnaeus's first published description of his binomial nomenclature.
Historia Plantarum is a botany book by John Ray, published in 1686.
Sir Tancred Robinson was an English physician, known also as a naturalist.
Don Carlin Gunawardena was a Sri Lankan botanist, Emeritus Professor of Botany, and Head of the Department of Science at Vidyodaya University, Ceylon. He was known for his etymological and historical accounts of Sri Lankan flora and fauna and other works on tropical taxonomy.
Giles Munby (1813–1876) was an English botanist. His major work concerned plants in North Africa, where he lived for 15 years.
Coronariae is a term used historically to refer to a group of flowering plants, generally including the lilies (Liliaceae), and later replaced by the order Liliales. First used in the 17th century by John Ray, it referred to flowers used to insert in garlands. Coronariae soon came to be associated with Liliaceae in the Linnaean system. The term was abandoned at the end of the 19th century, being replaced with Liliiflorae and then Liliales.
The Wonderful Mr Willughby: The First True Ornithologist is a 2018 biography, written by Tim Birkhead, about Francis Willughby (1635–1672), an English ornithologist, ichthyologist, entomologist, and Fellow of the Royal Society. Birkhead's work is the first book-length biography of Willughby.