The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation. John Ray
"Volume 167: The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation.... By John Ray, Fellow of the Royal Society.
Thus reads the title page of Ray's most popular book. He wrote it in English, not Latin, to give it a wide readership and it was in many ways the drawing together of all his life's work. In it he moved on from the naming and cataloguing of plants and animals to consider their lives and how nature worked (much of that would still be agreed today, e.g. his analysis of the bee's honeycomb). He also discussed cosmology and geology. He combined his science with his deep religious faith, attempting to reconcile the two through what he termed physico-theology, with its emphasis on the Argument from Design of the existence of God.
It is a book of its time and not just in his account of biology and theology. The phraseology and the whole atmosphere of the book breathe the seventeenth century in a most charming way. It is an easy window onto his world of the early days of modern science and of the Royal Society.
It is also a book for the future. William Derham, William Paley and others propagated his physico-theology for a century and a half. Naturalists like Gilbert White, inspired by 'our countryman, the excellent Mr Ray', furthered the British tradition of natural history. Even Charles Darwin's work, although it refutes Ray's views on evolution and the role of God, is, in many ways, a true development of the combined programme of natural history and philosophy which Ray initiated in Wisdom of God- a programme that continues today and has been popularised by authors such as Gould, Dawkins and Conway Morris. And if the teleology of Ray can sound glib in the ears of many today, the basic question of what we can learn about the meaning and purpose of life through the study of the natural world, is an abiding theological quest that the master, Ray, can help us with.
This facsimile of the full 1826 edition of Wisdom of God has been complemented by an essay, written by Dr Max Walters, reappraising the relationship between Ray and Linnaeus and contrasting, starting from Ray, the development of botanical systematics with zoological systematics.
You can download the essay as a PDF here. Please contact the Honorary Secretary if you would like to have a copy sent to you.
Published 2006. Facsimile of the ""Dove Edition of 1826"" "