Lives of Eminent Zoologists, from Aristotle to Linnus

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Red-blooded Animals.
Respiring by lungs, and having a heart furnished with two ventricles, viviparous, and aquatic,Cetacia.
Those having a heart with a single ventricle,Oviparous Quadrupeds, and Serpents.
Respiring by gills,Fishes.
White-blooded Animals.
{Malacia or Mollusca.
Of large size,{Malacostraca or Crustacea.
{Ostracoderma or Testacea.
Of small size,Insects.

Characterizing the different groups by circumstances connected with their organization, he arranges quadrupeds into those which have undivided hoofs, as the horse; those having cleft hoofs, of which some are ruminant, others not. Of the former, some have permanent concave horns, as oxen, sheep, goats; others have solid deciduous horns, as deer. The cloven-footed animals which do not ruminate are the hog family. The rhinoceros, hippopotamus, tapir, and musk, he classes as anomalous. Of the unguiculate animals, some are ruminant, with two claws only, as the camel; others are carnivorous, with more numerous claws, as cats, dogs, polecats. Some again are herbivorous, with two long front teeth, as hares; and others are toothless,[Pg 173] as the anteater. Other animals of this kind are furnished with wings, and have a short muzzle, as the bats; while some are without wings, as the sloth. Tortoises, lizards, and serpents, bring up the rear.

After this work had been published, he completed a Synopsis of Birds and Fishes, which was sent to Dr Robinson to be printed; but the booksellers who had the copyright neglected it, so that it did not appear until after the author's death, when it was enlarged and edited by Derham in 1713.

Having finished these synopses, Mr Ray considered his labours at an end,—a consummation which gave him the more joy, because he had for several years suffered severely in his health. But soon after, he was induced to add to an English translation of Rauwolf's Travels "three Catalogues of such trees, shrubs, and herbs, as grow in the Levant." His next publication was the Catologus Stirpium in Exteris Regionibus Observatarum, consisting of species not growing spontaneously, or at least very rarely seen, in Britain. Having taken occasion in this work to criticize the method of Rivinus, this circumstance gave rise to some literary altercation, the result of which was a more careful revisal of his system, and a republication of his Methodus Plantarum Nova. At this period he was so tormented by a continual diarrhœa and painful ulcers in his legs, which kept him sleepless for whole nights, that he could not walk into the fields, much less visit the botanic gardens, where he might have found materials for his work.

His booksellers being unwilling to incur the pecuniary hazard attending this work, it was transmitted[Pg 174] by Mr Ray to his friend Dr Hotton, professor of botany at Leyden, who got it printed in 1703. The Dutch publishers inserted in the titlepage that it was printed at London for Smith and Walford, the persons who usually took charge of his books; and although the author objected to this proceeding they disregarded his wishes, alleging, that "it was customary among the printers to say what they thought would be for their interest in such cases." This production was very favourably received on the Continent, and Hotton used it as his text-book.

In a letter to Dr Derham, written in May 1702, he thus describes his condition:—"It is not many years since I applied myself to the observation and search of insects, in order to compose an history of them; but now I am wholly taken off from that study, by the afflictive pains I almost constantly labour under, by reason of ulcers upon my legs, I having not been half a mile out of my house these four years; and though I have made use of many means, and have had the advice of some of the most skilful surgeons and physicians, yet without success, growing yearly worse and worse. Besides, I have been very much haunted with a troublesome diarrhœa, frequently recurring; so that you may well think I can have but little heart to mind natural history: But I am yet so far engaged, that I cannot shake it off. I have now just ready to go under the press a third volume of the History of Plants, being a supplement to the two former volumes, which hath engrossed almost my whole time for two whole years. Besides, I have a little book now printing at Leyden, in Holland, entitled Methodus Plantarum emendata et aucta."[Pg 175]

We now approach the termination of the career of this truly great man, who was distinguished not less for his fervent piety than for his extensive knowledge and unwearied application. The last letter which he wrote was to Sir Hans Sloane, and is as follows:—

"Dear Sir,—The best of friends. These are to take a final leave of you as to this world. I look upon myself as a dying man. God requite your kindness expressed any ways towards me an hundred-fold,—bless you with a confluence of all good things in this world, and eternal life and happiness hereafter,—grant us an happy meeting in heaven. I am, Sir, eternally yours,

John Ray.

"Black Notley, Jan. 7, 1704."

There is a passage in The Wisdom of God manifested in the Works of Creation, which exhibits his ideas of a future state, and which it would be instructive to compare with the maniacal effusions of infidela and scoffers: "It is not likely that eternal life shall be a torpid and inactive state, or that it shall consist only in an uninterrupted and endless act of love; the other faculties shall be employed, as well as the will, in actions suitable to, and perfective of, their natures,—especially the understanding, the supreme faculty of the soul, which chiefly differenceth from brute beasts, and makes us capable of virtue and vice, of rewards and punishments, shall be busied and employed in contemplating the works of God, and observing the divine art and wisdom manifested in the structure and composition of them; and reflecting upon their great[Pg 176] Architect the praise and glory due to him. Then shall we clearly see, to our great satisfaction and admiration, the ends and uses of these things which here were either too subtle for us to penetrate and discover, or too remote and unaccessible for us to come to any distinct view of, viz. the planets and fixed stars, those illustrious bodies, whose contents and inhabitants, whose stores and furniture, we have here so longing a desire to know, as also their mutual subserviency to each other. Now the mind of man being not capable at once to advert to more than one thing, a particular view and examination of such an innumerable number of vast bodies, and the great multitude of species, both of animate and inanimate beings, which each of them contains, will afford matter enough to exercise and employ our minds, I do not say to all eternity, but to many ages, should we do nothing else.

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