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John Ray

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John Ray

John Ray (Born::November 29, 1627Died::January 17, 1705) was the son of an herbalist, and so gained an immense love of nature and plants. He studied mathematics, languages, and natural science at the University of Cambridge. In 1649 Ray became a Fellow, in 1651 he became a Lecturer, and in 1658 he became junior Dean of the University.

Ray is considered one of the founders of modern science. He wrote the first textbook of modern botany, and was the first to discover that tree wood conducts water. He is also described as "the first true systematist of the animal kingdom" (Baron Cuvier).

John Ray became an ordained priest of the Anglican church and wrote the classic work titled Wisdom of God in 1691. It shows an intelligent person considering the implications of the varieties of objects and creatures he and others have discovered.

On Astronomy

First of all, the Numbers of fix’d Stars is on all hands acknowledg’d to be next to infinite: Secondly, Every fix’d Star, in the now-receiv’d Hypothesis, is a Sun or Sun-like Body, and in like manner incircled with a Chorus of Planets moving about it; for the fix’d Stars are not all placed in one and the same concave Spherical Superficies, and equidistant from us, as they seem to be, but are variously and disorderly situate, some nearer, some further off, just like Trees in a Wood or Forest; as Gassendus exemplifies them. And as in a Wood, tho’ the Trees grow never so irregularly, yet the Eye of the Spectator, wherever plac’d, or whithersoever remov’d, describes still a circle of Trees: So would it in like manner wherever it were in the Forest of Stars, decribe a Spherical Superficies about it...
Besides these, there have been incomparably more detected and brought to light by the Telescope; the Milky-way being found out to be; (as was formerly conjectr’d) nothing but great Companies or Swarms of Minute Stars singly invisible, but by reason of their Proximity mingling and confounding their Lights, and appearing like lucid Clouds. And it’s likely that, had we more perfect Telescopes many Thousands more might be discovered; and yet after all, an incredible Multitude remain, by reason of their immense Distance beyond all Ken by the best Telescopes that could possibly be invented or polish’d by the Wit and Hand of an Angel:

On Interstellar Life

Thirdly, each of these Planets is in all likelihood furnished with as great Variety of corporeal Creatures, animate and inanimate, as the earth is, and all as different in Nature as they are in Place firom the Terrestrial, and from each other. Whence it will follow, that these must be much more infinite than the Stars: I do not mean absolutely according to Philosophick Exactness infinite, but only infinite or innumerable as to us, or their Number prodigiously great.

On Biology

Again, the same Superiority of Knowledge would be display’d, by contriving Engines of the same Kind, or for the same Purposes, after different Fashions, as the moving of Clocks or other Engines by Springs instead of Weights: So the infinitely Wise Creator hath shewn many Instances, that he is not confin’d to one only instrument for the working one Effect, but can perform the same thing by divers means. So, though feathers seem necessary for flying, yet hath he enabled several creatures to fly without them, as two Sorts of Fishes, one Sort of Lizard, and the Bat, not to mention the numerous Tribes of flying Insects. In like manner, though the Air bladder in Fishes seems necessary for swimming, yet some are so form’d as to swim without it; viz. First, the Cartilagineous Kind, which by what Artifice they poise themselves, ascend and descend at pleasure, and continue in what Depth of Water they list, is as yet unknown to us. Secondly, the Cetaceous Kind, or Sea-Beasts, differing in nothing almost from Quadrupeds but the want of Feet. The Air which in Respiration these receive into their Lungs, may Serve to render their Bodies equiponderant to the Water; and the Constriction or Dilatation of it, by the help of the Diaphragm and Muscles of Respiration, may probably assist them to ascend or descend in the Water, by a light Impulse thereof with their Fins.
Since the Writing hereof, having this summer, Ann. I691. with some diiligence prosecuted the History of our English Insects, and making Collections of the Several Species of each Tribe, but particularly and especially of the Butterflies, both nocturnal and diurnal, I find the Number of such of these alone as breed in our Neighbourhood [about Braintree and Notely in Essex] to exceed the Sum I last Year assign’d to all England, having myself observ’d and describ’d about 200 Kinds great and small, many yet remaining, as I have good Reason to believe, by me undiscover’d. This I have, since the writing hereof found true in Experience, having every Year observ’d not a few new Kinds: Nor do I think that, if I should live 20 Years longer, I should by my utmost Diligence and Industry in searching them out, come to an End of them. If then within the small Compass of a Mile or two there are so many Species to be found, surely the most modest Conjecsture cannot estimate the Number of all the Kinds of Papilio’s native of this Island to fall short of 300, which is twice so many as I last Summer guess’d them to be; wherefore, using the same Argumentations, the Number of all the British Insects will amount to 2000 and the total Sum of those of the whole Earth will be 20000.


See Also