Insects

Key Publication: History of Insects, 1710

Ray started to lay the foundations of a classification system for insects, discovered many new species, and was the first person to systematically study the lifecycle of the butterfly and other insects.

From Ray’s earliest plant studies he would note the insects he saw on them, but it was only towards the end of his life that he turned to a more detailed study of insects. He could not do much field observation himself by this age due to illness, but asked his wife and daughters to collect specimens for him, as well as his scholarly correspondents.

He completed a small 10-page classification in 1705 just before his death, and the notes for his ‘History of Insects’ were published in 1710 after his death. The work still contained many new species and the foundation of a classification system.

In total Ray recognised 47 British butterflies and recorded data on moths, beetles, wasps, flies, fleas, ticks, worms, leeches, spiders, millipedes, dragonflies, bees and grasshoppers.