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John Edward Gray

Born 12 February, 1800
Died 7 March, 1875
Nationality English
Fields Zoology

John Edward Gray (12 February, 1800 – 7 March, 1875) was a British zoologist. He was the elder brother of George Robert Gray and son of the pharmacologist and botanist Samuel Frederick Gray (1766-1828).

Gray was Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum in London from 1840 until Christmas 1874, before the Natural History holdings were split off to the Natural History Museum. He published several catalogues of the museum collections that included comprehensive discussions of animal groups as well as descriptions of new species. He improved the zoological collections to make them amongst the best in the world.



Gray was born in Walsall, but his family soon moved to London, where Gray studied medicine. He assisted his father in writing The Natural Arrangement of British Plants (1821). After being blackballed by the Linnean Society he turned his interest from botany to zoology.[citation needed] He began his zoological career by volunteering to collect insects for the British Museum at age 15. He officially joined the Zoological Department in 1824 to help John George Children catalog the reptile collection. In 1840 he took over from Children as Keeper of Zoology, which he continued for 35 years, publishing well over 1000 papers. He named many cetacean species, genera, subfamilies, and families.[1]

During this period he collaborated with Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins, the noted natural history artist, in producing "Gleanings from the Menagerie at Knowsley". Knowsley Park, near Liverpool, had been founded by Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby and was one of the largest private menageries in Victorian England.

In 1833, he was a founder of what became the Royal Entomological Society of London.

During his fifty years employed at the British Museum Gray wrote nearly 500 papers, including many descriptions of species new to science. These had been presented to the Museum by collectors from around the world, and included all branches of zoology, although Gray usually left the descriptions of new birds to his younger brother and colleague George.

He was also active in malacology, the study of mollusks. He described and named numerous marine snails include:


  • Gray was also interested in postage stamps; on 1 May, 1840, the day the Penny Black first went on sale, he purchased several with the intent to save them, thus making him the world's first known stamp collector.


  • Gray, J. E. (1825) "A list and description of some species of shells not taken notice of by Lamarck (continued)". Annals of Philosophy (2)9: 407-415.
  • (1830-1835) Illustrations of Indian Zoolog.y (with Thomas Hardwicke)
  • (1831) The Zoological Miscellany. To Be Continued Occasionally. London: Published by Treuttel, Wurtz and Co. (1831)
  • Gray J. E. (1850) Figures of molluscous animals selected from various authors. Etched for the use of students by M. E. Gray. Volume 4. Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, London. iv+219 pp.
  • Gray J. E. (November 1847) "A list of genera of Recent Mollusca, their synonyma and types". Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 15: 129-182.
  • 1855 and 1870. Catalog of Shield Reptiles.
  • Gray J. E. (October 1860) "On the arrangement of the land pulmoniferous Mollusca into families". Annals and magazine of Natural History, serie 3, 6: 267-269.


  • Biographies for Birdwatchers - Barbara and Richard Mearns ISBN 0 12 487422 3


  1. ^ Kenney, Robert D. Perrin, William F.; Wursig, Bernd; Thewissen, J. G. M. eds. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (2 ed.). 30 Corporate Drive, Burlington Ma. 01803: Academic Press. p. 963. ISBN 978-0-12-3733553-9. 

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN EDWARD GRAY (1800-1875), English naturalist, born at Walsall, Staffordshire, in 1800, was the eldest of the three sons of S. F. Gray, of that town, druggist and writer on botany, and author of the Supplement to the Pharmacopoeia, &c., his grandfather being S. F. Gray, who translated the Philosophia Botanica of Linnaeus for the Introduction to Botany of James Lee (1715-1795). Gray studied at St Bartholomew's and other hospitals for the medical profession, but at an early age was attracted to the pursuit of botany. He assisted his father by collecting notes on botany and comparative anatomy and zoology in Sir Joseph Banks's library at the British Museum, aided by Dr W. E. Leach, assistant keeper, and the systematic synopsis of the Natural Arrangement of British Plants, 2 vols., 1821, was prepared by him, his father writing the preface and introduction only. In consequence of his application for membership of the Linnaean Society being rejected in 1822, he turned to the study of zoology, writing on zoophytes, shells, Mollusca and Papilionidae, still aided by Dr Leach at the British Museum. In December 1824 he obtained the post of assistant in that institution; and from that date to December 1839, when J. G. Children retired from the keepership, he had so zealously applied himself to the study, classification and improvement of the national collection of zoology that he was selected as the fittest person to be entrusted with its charge. Immediately on his appointment as keeper, he took in hand the revision of the systematic arrangement of the collections; scientific catalogues followed in rapid succession; the department was raised in importance; its poverty as well as its wealth became known, and whilst increased grants, donations and exchanges made good many deficiencies, great numbers of students, foreign as well as English, availed themselves of its resources to enlarge the knowledge of zoology in all its branches. In spite of numerous obstacles, he worked up the department, within a few years of his appointment as keeper, to such a state of excellence as to make it the rival of the cabinets of Leiden, Paris and Berlin; and later on it was raised under his management to the dignity of the largest and most complete zoological collection in the world. Although seized with paralysis in 1870, he continued to discharge the functions of keeper of zoology, and to contribute papers to the Annals of Natural History, his favourite journal,and to the transactions of a few of the learned societies; but at Christmas 1874, having completed half a century of official work, he resigned office, and died in London on the 7th of March 1875.

Gray was an exceedingly voluminous writer, and his interests were not confined to natural history only, for he took an active part in questions of public importance of his day, such as slave emancipation, prison discipline, abolition of imprisonment for debt, sanitary and municipal organizations, the decimal system, public education, extension of the opening of museums, &c. He began to publish in 1820, and continued till the year of his death.

The titles of the books, memoirs and miscellaneous papers written by him, accompanied by a few notes, fill a privately printed list of 56 octavo pages with 1162 entries.

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

John Edward Gray

(12.II.1800 - 7.III.1875)

English naturalist.

Simple English

John Edward Gray
File:Gray John Edward
Born12 February 1800(1800-02-12)
Walsall, England
DiedMarch 7, 1875 (aged 75)
InstitutionsBritish Museum

John Edward Gray (February 12, 1800March 7, 1875) was a English zoologist. He studied medicine in London, and became head of the Zoological collection in 1840. During his life he wrote over 500 academic papers, mostly on new species.

Gray was also interested in postage stamps; on 1 May 1840, the day the Penny Black first went on sale, he bought some to keep, thus making him the world's first known stamp collector.


  • Illustrations of Indian Zoology (1830-35) (with Thomas Hardwicke)
  • The Zoological Miscellany. To Be Continued Occasionally. London: Published by Treuttel, Wurtz and Co. (1831)
  • Catalog of Shield Reptiles (1855 and 1870)


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