John Ray lived through a period of upheaval in the 1600s. He was a student at the University of Cambridge during the English Civil War and left his subsequent teaching post there as a result of religious changes brought about by the Restoration of the Monarchy.
His academic work was set against the backdrop of the Age of Enlightenment, in which the principles of modern science were being established.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Ray’s story is his success given his humble background as the son of a blacksmith in a small village. In the 1600s wealth and status were normally the key door openers to the academic and scientific world.