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John Ray
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John Ray
Born (1627-11-29)29 November 1627
Died 17 January 1705(1705-01-17) (aged 77)
Black Notley
Nationality English
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge St Catharine's College, Cambridge
Scientific career
Fields Botany, Zoology, Natural history, Natural theology
Academic advisors James Duport

John Ray FRS (29 November 1627 – 17 January 1705) was an English naturalist widely regarded as one of the earliest of the English parson-naturalists. Until 1670, he wrote his name as John Wray. From then on, he used 'Ray', after "having ascertained that such had been the practice of his family before him".

He published important works on botany, zoology, and natural theology. His classification of plants in his Historia Plantarum, was an important step towards modern taxonomy. Ray rejected the system of dichotomous division by which species were classified according to a pre-conceived, either/or type system , and instead classified plants according to similarities and differences that emerged from observation. Ray was the first person to produce a biological definition of species, in his 1686 History of Plants.

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.

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.

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