John Ray, English naturalist and pioneer of plant taxonomy, 1700.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Print by A. de Blois after painting by William Faithorne (1616-1691). John Ray (1627-1705) 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.