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John Ray

John Ray, 1627-1705, English naturalist.

Ray was the first to formulate the notion of the species to distinguish plants and animals from one another. His taxonomic system of 1693, based on that of Aristotle, used such anatomical features as nature and number of toes and teeth to classify the animals.

Many thinkers in the eighteenth century, especially theologians, disbelieved in the possibility of the extinction of species. Ray, however, demonstrated convincingly that fossils represent extinct animal species, and provided the basis for Cuvier's more thorough system of paleontology.