Key Publication: Miscellanous Discourses, 1692

‘Nature makes nothing in vain. But these teeth, were they just formed in the Earth, would be in vain; for they could not have any use of teeth… Nature never made teeth without a Jaw, nor Shells without an Animal inhabitant, nor single Bones’

John Ray, 1692

In Ray’s time understanding of creation was governed by the account in the Bible. It was thought that the earth dated from about 5000BC and that fossils were formed in nature as imitations of shells, fish or other creatures, but were not a genuine creature. Ray’s observations of the changing coastlines around Britain and his fossil excavations led him to question both of these.

He published his work on Fossils in his ‘Miscellaneous Discourses’, 1692. The work quickly sold out, and a second edition was published the next year. In particular, he put forward that fossils were the remains of creatures that were now extinct, going against the commonly held view that all creatures that God created at the beginning still existed.