History . Natural History

John Ray and Archives of Natural History

English naturalist John Ray was born in November 1627. Generally regarded as one of the earliest English parson-naturalists, he is credited as “the originator of the criterion of common parentage for conspecificity”. Ray wrote widely on botany, natural theology, taxonomy and zoology and his important works began with Catalogus plantarum circa Cantabrigiam nascentium (1660).

John Ray

However, did you know that Ray acknowledged the help of a colleague at Cambridge University, John Nidd, whom he said contributed many observations to Catalogus plantarum? You can read more about it in Archives of Natural History. In the newly published article, ‘Using John Nidd’s annotated books in the Wren Library to reassess his contribution to John Ray’s Catalogus (1660)’, Christopher D. Preston delves deep into the Wren Library and explores Nidd’s work, Charles Raven’s biography of Ray and the potential contributions of James Duport, in order to determine Nidd’s contribution to Ray’s work.

Annotations by Nidd in his copy of Bennet’s Tabidorum theatrum (1656: 81; WL S.10.170), marking the passage from which Ray (1660: 6) took his note on Allium sylvestre.

John Ray’s work on the idea of species was very important and, alongside Ray, the physician Thomas Sydenham also looked at species and even referenced Ray’s work. In the article, ‘Thomas Sydenham, John Ray, and some contemporaries on species’, A. J. Cain compares and contrasts both Sydenham’s and Ray’s conception of what a species is and discusses their respective impacts.

Enjoy both articles for free!

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