John Ray, 1627–1705, English naturalist. He was extremely influential in laying the foundations of systematic biology. With his pupil Francis Willughby, he planned a complete classification of the vegetable and animal kingdoms and toured Europe collecting specimens. On Willughby's death, Ray organized and published the material left by his friend. Ray's own work—the botanical part of the project—includes the important Historia plantarum (3 vol., 1686–1704). Ray was the first to name and make the distinction between monocotyledons and dicotyledons. He was also the first to define and explain the term species in the modern sense of the word. Ray studied and wrote on quadrupeds, reptiles, and birds. The Ray Society for the publication of scientific works was founded in his honor in 1844.
See his Correspondence, ed. by E. Lankester (1848) and Further Correspondence, ed. by R. W. Gunther (1928); C. E. Raven, John Ray, Naturalist (2d ed. 1951).