Birthday: November 29, 1627
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Born in: Black Notley, near Braintree
Famous as: Naturalist
Quotes By John Ray
Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Oakley
Died on: January 17, 1705
place of death: Black Notley
education: Trinity College, Cambridge, St Catharine's College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge
The earliest of parson-naturalists known to the world, John Ray was one of the most eminent naturalists of the 17th century. He was also an influential philosopher and theologian. Ray was also the first person to give the biological definition of the term, ‘species’. He is hailed as ‘the father of natural history' and published some of the important works on plants, animals and natural theology. This founding figure of botany and zoology made ground-breaking contributions in the field of taxonomy. Born in a village to a blacksmith father and an amateur herbalist mother, Ray is believed to have spent much of his childhood helping his mother collect plants and observing the healing properties of them. Ray attended Trinity College, Cambridge University, where he received his bachelors and master’s degree. He was later appointed as the fellow of the college and he took a number of teaching positions but unfortunately resigned from his fellowship due to religious persecution. His contributions as a naturalist laid the foundation for many future works of research. Presently there are 172 works of him which are stored in some of the most prestigious libraries in London.
Childhood & Early Life
John Ray was born in the village of Black Notley, near Braintree. His father Roger Ray was the village blacksmith and mother Elizabeth Ray was an amateur herbalist and medical practitioner.
At 16, he was enrolled at the Cambridge University, where he studied at the Trinity College and Catharine Hall. In 1649, he was selected as a minor fellow at Trinity and later a major fellow.
From 1651, he held various academic positions as a fellow at Trinity, teaching Greek, humanities and mathematics. He also served as a praelector, junior dean and college steward.
He was well versed with preaching, which he often did at the college chapel and also at the Great St Mary's. On December 23, 1660, he officially received his holy orders. That year he published, ‘Catalogue of Cambridge plants'.
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On August 24, 1662, he resigned from his fellowship along with 13 other fellows as they could not subscribe to the ‘Bartholomew Act’ of 1662.
His religious beliefs were in sync with the ones imposed under the restoration of Charles II of England. He was thus technically a nonconformist but continued with the Established Church of England.
From the spring of 1663 to March 1666, he went on a tour of Europe along with some of his pupils like Francis Willughby, Philip Skippon and Nathaniel Bacon.
In 1668, he came out with his work titled, ‘Tables of plants' and 'Catalogue of English plants plus Fasiculus (an appendix)'. He subsequently published, ‘Catalogue of English proverbs'.
In 1669, along with Francis Willughby, he came out with his first piece of work on Philosophical Transactions titled, ‘Experiments concerning the Motion of Sap in Trees'.
In 1673, he published, ‘Observations topographical, moral, and physiological, made on a Journey through part of the Low Countries, Germany, Italy, and France', his account on his foreign travels.
With his 1686 released book titled, 'History of Plants', he became the first person to conceive the biological definition of the term, 'species'. That year he also published the work titled, ‘History of Fishes +Frontis & 187 Engraved Plates'.
In the 1690s, he published three volumes of his writings on religion. The most well-known among these publications was, ‘The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation'.
In 1691, he published one of his seminal and most popular works titled, ‘The Wisdom of God'. This work of his was later plagiarised by William Paley in his later work titled, 'Natural Theology'.
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Some of his other works in the 1690s decade include, ‘Synopsis of Animals and Reptiles', 'Collection of Travels', ' Collection of European Plants', 'Plants of Each County' and 'Brief Dissertation'.
Awards & Achievements
In 1667, he was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1673, he wedded Margaret Oakley of Launton.
In 1676, he began to live in Sutton Coldfield and the following year, he relocated to Falborne Hall in Essex.
In 1679, he moved to Black Notley, where he lived for the rest of his life. Here, he suffered from poor health and chronic sores.
He died at the age of 77 in Black Notley.
There are a total of 172 of his works, which are considered very unique and rare. They are held in The British Library, Euston, London, The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, The University of Cambridge Library, Library of Trinity College Cambridge and The Natural History Museum Library, South Kensington, London.
This 17th century English naturalist was the first person to give a biological definition of the term ‘species’.