The experience of one of our Trustees, Paul, during the Commonwealth Games 2022 proved that our mission to increase awareness of the work of Ray is still very much needed!
Paul volunteered at the lawn bowls competition and was placed with a host family in Leamington Spa. It turned out that his host was a Professor of Plant Science, Ian Crute, who had only vaguely heard of John Ray! Paul proceeded to tell Ray’s story, and since then Ian has enjoyed researching Ray’s story. Below is an extract of Ian’s write up published with his permission.
“July and August 2022 in Leamington Spa saw the influx from around the world of several thousand devotees to the game of lawn bowls (contestants and spectators). Victoria Park is the HQ of the sport in England and was the venue for contests between men and women of all ages from far and wide. The tournament comprised eleven separate events and the award of 33 medals. Contestants were able-bodied and disabled including teenagers, a 75-year-old medal-winner and all ages in between.
Earlier in the year, we had responded to a request for local homeowners to provide volunteer marshals with “bed-and-breakfast” accommodation. Two such guests (Paul from Essex and Janet from Nottingham) stayed with us for the duration of the games. Simultaneously, and with less notice, three generations of six sports-loving, ticket-holding northern Crutes also descended on us. This required sleeping arrangements to be established in all rooms apart from the kitchen and bathrooms. We all had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of weeks, but thereafter Liz and I were firmly resolved not to start a bed-and-breakfast business! However, meeting new people can be instructive.
Our guest Paul is a trustee of the John Ray Trust (inaugurated in 1986 – https://johnraytrust.com). The trust has a scholarship scheme and awards bursaries to students in the natural sciences. I had a vague recollection of having previously heard the name John Ray in a natural history context. He initially spelled his name “Wray” until 1670 when he changed it to Ray. Despite my having a degree in botany, I was previously completely unaware that it was John Ray (1627-1705) who developed the species concept and inspired Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) in the development of the structured taxonomic approach we are all familiar with for naming and classifying plants (as well as fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects). My conversations with Paul about John Ray stimulated me find out more about this remarkable 17th century figure who, from a humble background, became such a highly influential scientific pioneer.
Paul obtained for me the 2005 publication (“John Ray – Pioneer in the Natural ~Sciences: a Celebration and Appreciation of his Life and Work”) by Malcolm Bryan (a former Chairman of the John Ray Trust). This stimulated me to delve deeper into John Ray’s life, work and travels coincident with particularly turbulent times in English history (the civil war raged between 1642 and 1651). Having read Bryan’s informative publication, I managed to secure a second-hand copy of the second edition of Ray’s biography (John Ray: naturalist – his life and works; 1950) authored by Charles Raven (formerly Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University). While not being scientifically trained, Raven had both a keen interest in natural history and, particularly, the necessary facility to read the Latin (in which all of Ray’s published work and correspondence was written)……….
My reading continues. I am particularly interested to try and understand better the influence that Ray’s writings may or may not have had on Darwin and the way in which Ray conceived that the natural world was organised and structured. ”