Edward Whitaker Gray

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Edward Whitaker Gray
Born21 March 1748
Died27 December 1806(1806-12-27) (aged 58)
Academic background
Academic work
School or traditionRoyal College of Physicians
Main interestsVarious, Natural Historian
Notable worksKeeper: National Collection
InfluencedJosé Correia da Serra, William Marsden

Edward Whitaker Gray (21 March 1748 – 27 December 1806), English botanist and secretary to the Royal Society, was uncle of Samuel Frederick Gray, author of The Practical Chemist.[1]

Educational and professional roles[edit]

While attending the College of Physicians he performed the duties of librarian. He became a licentiate in 1773. He graduated M.D., and ultimately was assigned as keeper of the departments of Natural history and antiquities in the British Museum, which consisted of the collection purchased from Sir Hans Sloane on his passing in 1753.[2] This role he held from 1778 until his death. During his tenure, he reorganized the natural history collections employing the Linnæan system.[3][4] George Shaw assumed his duties as keeper in 1807 having assisted since 1791.[5]

Within zoology, his Catalogue of Shells for the British Museum (1791) best reflect his work as a malacologist.[6]

He introduced two plants, Hexandria monogynia, native to Brazil, and Hexandria monogynia, native to Portugal, shipped from Oporto, and catalogued (1777) in the Royal Botanical gardens at Kew.[7] He was one of the original associates of the Linnean Society in 1788.

In 1785 and 1786 he delivered Croonian Lectures on topics related to muscle response, and in 1789 he contributed Observations on the … Amphibia to the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, of which he was a fellow (elected Feb. 1779), and of which on St. Andrew's day in 1797 he became the junior secretary. His 1807 successor to this secretarial post was Sir Humphry Davy, future mentor to Michael Faraday.

He died at the British Museum, 27 Dec. 1806, in his fifty-ninth year of age.


He married Elizabeth Bearsley on 6 June 1775 in Oporto, Portugal. By her he had three children. His two daughters, Juliana and Elizabeth, were both christened in Portugal. The younger daughter married in 1808 Taylor Combe, who subsequently assumed the junior secretarial role for the Royal Society.[8] His son, Francis Edward Gray died on 3 January 1814 at Oporto, 29 years of age.[9][10][11]

Articles published in Philosophical Transactions [12][edit]


  • Catalogue of plants found in the neighbourhood of Newbury (published by Hall & Marsh 1839).
  • Catalogue of shells bequeathed to the British Museum by the Rev. Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode, A.M. (published 1801).


  1. ^ Journal of Botany, British and Foreign, ed. Britten, vol. xxvii., p. 46, (London 1889).
  2. ^ The Athenæum, Vol. 2, p. 343, comp. John Francis (London 1888).
  3. ^ Statutes and rules for the British museum, pp. 46–6, (London 1839).
  4. ^ Royal Gardens, Kew. Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information, p. 76, (London, 1894).
  5. ^ Arts and sciences: or, Fourth division of "The English encyclopedia", Volume 2, p. 377 ed. Charles Knight (London 1866).
  6. ^ Catalogue of the books, manuscripts, maps and drawings in the British Museum (London 1904).
  7. ^ Hortus Kewensis, by William Aiton, vol. i., pp. 417, 445, (London 1789).
  8. ^ The Annual Register, Volume 68 By Edmund Burke p. 267, (London 1827).
  9. ^ Monumental inscriptions of S. Mary, Lewisham, Kent, ed. Kirby & Duncan, Lewisham Antiquarian Society (Lee 1889).
  10. ^ Oporto, Old and New, ed. Herbert Harper, pp. 81, 88, 92, 127. (London, 1899).
  11. ^ The Gentleman's magazine, Volume 115 By John Nichols.
  12. ^ Alphabetical Index to Philosophical Transactions volumes 71-120, (London 1821).


  •  "Gray, Edward Whitaker". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.