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Ray, John

Born: 1627 AD
Died: 1705 AD

1627 – John Ray was born on November 29th in a smithy at Black Notley near Braintree, Essex. John Ray was an ordained lecturer who lost his university post during a religious persecution, but went on to become a founding figure in British botany and zoology.

1649 – He graduated from Trinity College and became a minor Fellow, later gaining appointments as Lecturer in Greek, Mathematics and Humanities.

1650 – He began studying plants in his spare time. He explored the county of Cambridgeshire on ‘sampling’ expeditions and established specimens in his garden.

1660 – His Cambridge Catalogue was published, the first county Flora.

         – Ray had studied to become a minister in the Church of England. While a lecturer he preached regularly at chapel in Cambridge, but his ordination was delayed by the disruption of the Civil War.

1662 – During the war many ministers had signed a Covenant – a manifesto for reform of the church. The new king required every minister to swear an oath condemning the Covenant. Although Ray had not himself signed, he would not condemn it, and accordingly lost his university post, his house and his botanic garden.

1663 – Ray and three friends embarked on a three year expedition around Europe, observing plants and animals. They talked with continental academics at Montpellier, the centre of the emerging science of Botany. Ray spent many years subsequently cataloguing and analyzing the material gathered on this and other expeditions.

1667 – In November, Ray was “admitted Fellow of the Royal Society”.

1670 – He changed his name to John Wray.

1678 – Ray was invited to become Secretary of the Royal Society, but turned it down because he regarded ‘divinity’ as his primary vocation.

1685 – John Ray suffered from leg sores, probably caused by lack of winter heating, and traveled less as he grew older. Ray’s theological writings, including Wisdom of God were published during this period. His field work turned to insects, of which he found a great variety within a few miles of his home.

1705 – Ray died in January 17th, and is buried at the church in Black Notley.