John Ray was a highly influential English naturalist and botanist whose contributions to taxonomy are considered groundbreaking and historic. He is also well-known in the world of botany for the establishment of species as the ultimate unit of taxonomy.
Early Life and Education:
Born in 1627 in a small village of Black Notley, Essex, John Ray’s father was a blacksmith. Ray entered the Cambridge University at the young age of sixteen.
Contributions and Achievements:
John Ray was selected a Fellow of Trinity College in 1649. However, he lost the position thirteen years later when, in 1662, he declined to take the oath to the Act of Uniformity after the Restoration. With full support of his former stundent and fellow naturalist, Francis Willoughby, Ray made several trips throughout Europe with him, carrying out research in the fields of botany and zoology.
Ray formulated the fundamental principles of plant classification into cryptogams, monocotyledons and dicotyledons in his landmark works “Catalogus plantarum Angliae” (1670) and “Methodus plantarum nova” (1682). Other major publications of Ray include “Historia generalis plantarum” (3 volumes, 1686-1704) and “The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation” (1691), both of which became quite influential during the time.
The zoological contributions of Ray include the developement of the most natural pre-Linnaean classification of the animal kingdom. He was appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1667. Ray endorsed scientific empiricism as compared to the deductive rationalism of the scholastics.
Later Life and Death:
In his later years, Ray moved to his native village, where he remained until his death in 1705. He was 77 years old. The Ray Society was established in his honor in 1844.