John Ray

The Father of English Botany

January 17, 1705
Today is the anniversary of the death of the botanist and theologian John Ray. Ray is regarded as the most distinguished British naturalist of the seventeenth century and “The Father of English Botany.”

Ray was born to a blacksmith, and his mother was an herbalist. He was ordained as a minister but then turned his attention to zoology and botany after the King of England ordered the clergy to condemn their covenant with the church.

In 1650, twenty-five years before the first maps of Europe were written for the masses; Ray went on a quest. He traveled around Europe for three years - with two friends - and he observed flora and fauna. Ray coined the botanical terms ‘petal’ and ‘pollen.’ His book, Historia Plantarum, was the first textbook of modern botany.

The naturalist Gilbert White wrote,

”Our countryman, the excellent Mr. Ray, is the only describer [of plants and animals] who conveys some precise idea in every term or word, maintaining his superiority over his followers and imitators.”

The sculptor, Faith Winter, created a distinguished-looking statue of John Ray. It was unveiled by the botanist David Bellamy on October 11, 1986.

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John Ray
John Ray

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