John Edward Gray

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John Edward Gray.

John Edward Gray (February 12, 1800March 7, 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).

John Gray was Keeper of Zoology at the British Museum in London from 1840 until Christmas 1874. He published several catalogs 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. He joined the Zoological Department of the British Museum in 1824 to help John George Children catalogue the reptile collection. In 1840 he took over from Children as Keeper of Zoology.

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.

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.

The Indian Pond Heron (Ardeola grayii) is named in his honour.


  • 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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