John Ray

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Related to John Ray: Carolus Linnaeus, Carolus Linnæus

Ray or Wray, John,

1627–1705, English naturalist. He was extremely influential in laying the foundations of systematic biology. With his pupil Francis Willughby, he planned a complete classification of the vegetable and animal kingdoms and toured Europe collecting specimens. On Willughby's death, Ray organized and published the material left by his friend. Ray's own work—the botanical part of the project—includes the important Historia plantarum (3 vol., 1686–1704). Ray was the first to name and make the distinction between monocotyledons and dicotyledons. He was also the first to define and explain the term species in the modern sense of the word. Ray studied and wrote on quadrupeds, reptiles, and birds. The Ray Society for the publication of scientific works was founded in his honor in 1844.


See his Correspondence, ed. by E. Lankester (1848) and Further Correspondence, ed. by R. W. Gunther (1928); C. E. Raven, John Ray, Naturalist (2d ed. 1951).

Ray, John


Born Nov. 29, 1627, in Black Notley, Essex; died Jan. 17, 1705, in Dewlands, near Black Notley. English biologist. Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1667).

Ray was the first to compile a list of the plants of England (1670). In his three-volume Historia generalis plantarum (1686–1704) he described and classified 18,600 species. Ray proposed the first natural system of plant classification, introduced the concepts of dicotyledons and monocotyledons, and differentiated plants into those with bisexual and those with diclinous flowers. In Synopsis methodica animalium quadrupe-dum et serpentini generis (1693), Ray used the concepts of genus and species in his classification, defining a species in a way that basically coincides with the modern definition.

Ray also wrote a number of books on linguistics, folklore, and natural theology.


Raven, C. E. John Ray, Naturalist. Cambridge, 1950.
Keynes, G. L. John Ray, a Bibliography. London, 1951.
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