John Ray, English naturalist, c 1700.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Illustrated plate engraving by Abraham de Blois after an original work by William Faithorne, from the 1703 edition of 'Methodus Pantarum Nova' by John Ray (1627-1705), first published in 1682. Ray was first a student and later a lecturer at Cambridge University, where he became an expert in languages, mathematics, and natural science. After leaving Cambridge for political reasons in 1660, he toured Europe extensively collecting flora and fauna. His botanical work includes the study of some 18,600 species. He was a pioneer of plant taxonomy and introduced the morphological clasification system of plants. Ray's theory that fosils were the petrified remains of animals and plants, was proven nearly a century after his death. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1667.