Often referred to as the ‘father of natural history’, John Ray was a local man who revolutionised the way we understand nature. His work has been highly significant within scientific circles, but is also important in our everyday understanding of plants and animals. For example, he coined the use of the terms petal and pollen and discovered that trees could be dated from their rings.

Ray’s connection to Linnaeus and Darwin

Ray’s work in the 17th Century laid the foundation for much of the scientific research that followed. In particular, his new scientific method for defining species and classifying plants and animals laid the foundations for Carl Linnaeus’s classification system. He also paved the way for Darwin’s theory of evolution outlined 150 years later in the ‘Origin of Species’.

A local man from Black Notley

Born on Bakers Lane in Black Notley in 1627, the son of the local blacksmith, John Ray was recognized early by his local teachers as a man of high intellect and talent. From these humble beginnings he was awarded a scholarship to study at the University of Cambridge, where he pursued a successful career until 1662. From 1663 until his death in 1705 he researched, observed, experimented and wrote a high number of works on plants, animals and birds, as well as a range of other books. Many of his most famous and influential works were actually researched and written in Black Notley, which Ray returned to permanently in 1679.

Bessie explaining the life cycle of a butterfly, first described fully by John Ray.


A downloadble information sheet on John Ray is available below.

John Ray Information Sheet

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