John Chipman Gray

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John Chipman Gray
Born (1839-07-14)July 14, 1839
Brighton, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died February 25, 1915(1915-02-25) (aged 75)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
Academic background
Alma mater Harvard University
Academic work
Main interests Property law

John Chipman Gray (July 14, 1839 – February 25, 1915) was an American scholar of property law and professor at Harvard Law School. He also founded the law firm Ropes & Gray, with law partner John Codman Ropes. He was half-brother to U.S. Supreme Court justice Horace Gray.

Early life[edit]

Gray was a graduate of Boston Latin School. From there, he went on to Harvard University, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1859, and Harvard Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1861. He was admitted to the bar in 1862, and thereafter served in the Union Army in the American Civil War. He enlisted from Boston as a 2nd lieutenant in Company B, 4th Battalion, Massachusetts Infantry on 27 May 1862, was mustered out a few days later, and commissioned into Company H, 3rd Massachusetts Cavalry on 7 October 1862. He left that unit to accept a commission as a major in the U.S. Volunteers Adjutant General Department on 25 July 1864. Gray was wounded at the Third Battle of Winchester on 19 September 1864, and resigned from the Army on 14 July 1865.

Legal career[edit]

In 1865, after the end of the Civil War, Gray established his law practice in Boston, Massachusetts, which would eventually evolve into the modern firm of Ropes and Gray. In 1869, he began teaching at Harvard Law School, first as a lecturer, and became a full professor in 1875. In 1883, he was named Royall Professor of Law (a chair named for Isaac Royall, Jr.), a position he would hold for 20 years. He received honorary Doctor of Laws degrees from Yale University in 1894, and from Harvard in 1895.

Two years after retiring from teaching, he died at Boston, Massachusetts on February 25, 1915.

Works written by Gray[edit]

Gray wrote two books on future interests, Restraints on the Alienation of Property (1883), and The Rule against Perpetuities (1886). His best known work is his survey of the common law, The Nature and Sources of the Law (1909). Gray's writings were so influential that they are still used in American law schools and cited in law journals to this day.


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