1.1 Early life 1.2 Later life and family
2.1 Ray's definition of species 2.2 System of classification 2.3 Publications
2.3.1 List of selected publications 2.3.2 Libraries holding Ray's works
3 Legacy 4 See also 5 Notes 6 References 7 Bibliography
7.1 Books and articles 7.2 Websites
8 External links
Life Early life
John Ray's birthplace in Black Notley, Essex
Blue plaque to John Ray
Close-up of memorial to John Ray
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.
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
"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. 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. Willughby undertook the former part, but, dying in 1672, left only an ornithology and ichthyology for Ray to edit; while Ray used the botanical collections for the groundwork of his Methodus plantarum nova (1682), and his great Historia generalis plantarum (3 vols., 1686, 1688, 1704). 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. 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. 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 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 definition of species Ray was the first person to produce a biological definition of species, in his 1686 History of plants:
"... no surer criterion for determining species has occurred to me than the distinguishing features that perpetuate themselves in propagation from seed. Thus, no matter what variations occur in the individuals or the species, if they spring from the seed of one and the same plant, they are accidental variations and not such as to distinguish a species... Animals likewise that differ specifically preserve their distinct species permanently; one species never springs from the seed of another nor vice versa".
System of classification As outlined in his Historia Plantarum (1685–1703):
Herbae (Herbaceous plants)
Imperfectae (Cryptogams) Perfectae (Seed plants)
Publications 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. List of selected publications
1660: Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium (Catalogue of Cambridge plants) 1668: Tables of plants. Ray, John (1677) . Catalogus plantarum Angliae, et insularum adjacentium: tum indigenas, tum in agris passim cultas complectens. In quo praeter synonyma necessaria, facultates quoque summatim traduntur, unà cum observationibus & experimentis novis medicis & physics [Catalogue of English plants] (in Latin) (2nd ed.). London: A Clark. 1670: Collection of English proverbs. 1673: Observations in the Low Countries and Catalogue of plants not native to England. 1674: Collection of English words not generally used. Ray, John (1674). A discourse on the seeds of plants. pp. 162–169. , in Birch (1757) 1675: Trilingual dictionary, or nomenclator classicus. 1676: Willughby's Ornithologia.[c] Ray, John (1682). Methodus plantarum nova: brevitatis & perspicuitatis causa synoptice in tabulis exhibita, cum notis generum tum summorum tum subalternorum characteristicis, observationibus nonnullis de seminibus plantarum & indice copioso [New method of plants] (in Latin). London: Faithorne & Kersey.
English translation by Stephen Nimis
1686: History of fishes.[d] 1686–1704: Historia plantarum species [History of plants]. London:Clark 3 vols;
Vol 1 1686, Vol 2 1688, Vol 3 1704 (in Latin)[e]
Ray, John (1690). Synopsis methodica stirpium Britannicarum: in qua tum notae generum characteristicae traduntur, tum species singulae breviter describuntur: ducentae quinquaginta plus minus novae species partim suis locis inseruntur, partim in appendice seorsim exhibentur : cum indice & virium epitome [Synopsis of British plants] (in Latin). London: Sam. Smith.
2nd ed 1696
1691: The wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation 7th ed. 2nd ed 1692, 3rd ed 1701, 4th ed 1704, 7th ed 1717[f] 1692: Miscellaneous discourses concerning the dissolution and changes of the world[g] 1693: Synopsis of animals and reptiles. 1693: Collection of travels. 1694: Collection of European plants. 1695: Plants of each county. (Camden's Britannia) Ray, John (1696). De Variis Plantarum Methodis Dissertatio Brevis [Brief dissertation] (in Latin). London: Smith & Walford.
English translation by Stephen Nimis
1700: A persuasive to a holy life. Ray, John (1703). Methodus plantarum emendata et aucta: In quãa notae maxime characteristicae exhibentur, quibus stirpium genera tum summa, tum infima cognoscuntur & áa se mutuo dignoscuntur, non necessariis omissis. Accedit methodus graminum, juncorum et cyperorum specialis (in Latin). London: Smith & Walford.
1705. Method and history of insects 1713: Synopsis methodica avium & piscium: opus posthumum (Synopsis of birds and fishes), in Latin. William Innys, London vol. 1: Avium vol. 2: Piscium 1713 Three Physico-theological discourses[h] Ray, John (1724) . Dillenius, Johann Jacob, ed. Synopsis methodica stirpium Britannicarum: in qua tum notae generum characteristicae traduntur, tum species singulae breviter describuntur: ducentae quinquaginta plus minus novae species partim suis locis inseruntur, partim in appendice seorsim exhibentur: cum indice & virium epitome (editio tertia multis locis emendata, & quadringentis quinquaginta circiter speciebus noviter detectis aucta ) [Synopsis of British plants] (in Latin) (3rd ed.). London: Gulielmi & Joaniis Innys.
Facsimile edition 1973, Ray Society, London. With introduction by William T. Stearn. ISBN 978-0-903874-00-7 Fourth edition 1760
Libraries holding Ray's works 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:
The British Library, Euston, London. Holds over 80 of the editions.
The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
University of Cambridge
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.
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 "
The standard author abbreviation Ray is used to indicate this person as the author when citing a botanical name. Notes
^ While still a B.A.
^ On attaining his M.A.
^ "In fact, the book was Ray's, based on preliminary notes by Francis
Willughby".p52Chapter 12 "Willughby and Ray laid the
foundation of scientific ornithology".
^ Plates subscribed by Fellows of the Royal Society. Samuel Pepys, the
President, subscribed for 79 of the plates.
^ The third volume lacked plates, so his assistant James Petiver
published Petiver's Catalogue in parts, 1715–1764, with plates. The
work on the first two volumes was supported by subscriptions from the
President and Fellows of the Royal Society.
^ 7th ed. Printed by R. Harbin, for William Innys, at the
Prince’s-Arms in St Paul’s Church Yard, London 1717. Each edition
enlarged from the previous edition. This was his most popular work. It
was in the vein later called natural theology, explaining the
adaptation of living creatures as the work of God. It was heavily
^ Armstrong, 2000. p. 2
^ Gunther, Robert W.T. 1928. Further Correspondence of John Ray. Ray
Society, London. p. 16
^ Historia plantarum generalis, in the volume published in 1686, Tome
I, Libr. I, Chap. XX, page 40 (Quoted in Mayr, Ernst. 1982. The growth
of biological thought: diversity, evolution, and inheritance.
Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press: 256)
^ "Ray, John (RY644J)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of
^ The wisdom of God manifested in the works of the Creation, Google
^ Mullens, W.H. (1909). "Some early British Ornithologists and their
Books and articles
Sachs, Julius von (1890) . Geschichte der Botanik vom 16.
Jahrhundert bis 1860 [History of botany (1530-1860)]. translated by
Henry E. F. Garnsey, revised by Isaac Bayley Balfour. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. doi:10.5962/bhl.title.30585. Retrieved 13 December
2015. , see also History of botany (1530-1860) at Google Books
Mandelbrote, Scott. "Ray [formerly Wray], John (1627–1705),
naturalist and theologian". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
(online ed.). Oxford University Press.
doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/23203. access-date= requires url= (help)
(Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
Armstrong, Patrick (2000). The English Parson-naturalist: A
Companionship Between Science and Religion. Gracewing.
Birch, Thomas, ed. (1757). The History of the
John Ray's works at the Biodiversity Heritage Library
John Ray, by Professor Sam Berry
Wikiquote has quotations related to: John Ray
Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Ray.
v t e
List of systems of plant taxonomy
A discourse on the seeds of plants Methodus plantarum nova De Variis Plantarum Methodis Dissertatio Brevis Methodus plantarum emendata et aucta
Linnaean system (1735–51)
Adanson system (1763)
Familles naturelles des plantes
De Jussieu system (1789)
Genera Plantarum, secundum ordines naturales disposita juxta methodum in Horto Regio Parisiensi exaratam
De Candolle system (1819–24)
Théorie élémentaire de la botanique, ou exposition des principes de la classification naturelle et de l'art de décrire et d'etudier les végétaux Prodromus systemati naturalis regni vegetabilis sive enumeratio contracta ordinum, generum specierumque plantarum huc usque cognitarum, juxta methodi naturalis normas digesta
Berchtold and Presl system (1820–1823)
O Prirozenosti Rostlin
Agardh system (1825)
Gray system (1821)
The Natural Arrangement of British Plants
Analyse des familles des plantes
Lindley system (1830–45)
An Introduction to the Natural System of Botany The Vegetable Kingdom
Don system (1834)
General History of Dichlamydious Plants.
Bentham & Hooker system (1862–83)
Genera plantarum ad exemplaria imprimis in herbariis kewensibus servata definita.
Baillon system (1867–94)
Histoire des plantes
Eichler system (1875–1886)
Blüthendiagramme: construirt und erläutert Syllabus der Vorlesungen über Phanerogamenkunde
Führer durch den Königlich botanischen Garten der Universität zu Breslau Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien Syllabus der Pflanzenfamilien Das Pflanzenreich
van Tieghem system (1891)
Traité de botanique
Dalla Torre & Harms system (1900–07)
Genera Siphonogamarum, ad systema Englerianum conscripta
Warming system (1912)
Haandbog i den systematiske botanik
Hallier system (1912)
L'origine et le système phylétique des angiospermes
Bessey system (1915)
The phylogenetic taxonomy of flowering plants
Wettstein system (1901–35)
Handbuch der systematischen Botanik
Lotsy system (1907–11)
Vorträge über botanische Stammesgeschichte, gehalten an der Reichsuniversität zu Leiden. Ein Lehrbuch der Pflanzensystematik.
Hutchinson system (1926–73)
The families of flowering plants, arranged according to a new system based on their probable phylogeny
Calestani system (1933)
Le origini e la classificazione delle Angiosperme
Kimura system (1956)
Système et phylogénie des monocotyledones
Emberger system (1960)
Traité de Botanique systématique
Melchior system (1964)
Syllabus der Pflanzenfamilien
Takhtajan system (1966–97)
A system and phylogeny of the flowering plants Flowering plants: origin and dispersal Diversity and classification of flowering plants
The evolution and classification of flowering plants An integrated system of classification of flowering plants
Goldberg system (1986–89
Classification, Evolution and Phylogeny of the Families of Dicotyledons
Dahlgren system (1975–85)
The families of the monocotyledons: structure, evolution, and taxonomy
Thorne system (1968–2000)
An updated phylogenetic classification of the flowering plants
Kubitzki system (1990–)
The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants
Reveal system (1999)
Reveal System of Angiosperm Classification
Angiosperm Phylogeny Group System (1998–2009)
An ordinal classification for the families of flowering plants (APG I) An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG II An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG III An update of the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group classification for the orders and families of flowering plants: APG IV Angiosperm Phylogeny Website
Plantae at Wikispecies
Note: This is a selected list of the more influential systems. There
are many other systems, for instance a review of earlier systems,
published by Lindley in his 1853 edition, and Dahlgren (1982).
Examples include the works of Scopoli,
v t e
George Montagu (Ornithological Dictionary)
Abbott Thayer (Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom)
Hugh B. Cott
WorldCat Identities VIAF: 29584945 LCCN: n50054842 ISNI: 0000 0001 2125 9597 GND: 118788000 SELIBR: 313422 SUDOC: 030873495 BNF: cb12220184b (data) HDS: 45446 NLA: 35443787 Botanist: Ray BNE: XX1083