John Edward Gray

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John Edward Gray (1800-1875)

John Edward Gray (born February 12, 1800 in Walsall , † March 7, 1875 in London ) was a British zoologist and philatelist .


Gray was born on February 12, 1800 in Walsall to Samuel Frederick Gray (1766-1828). His father was a well-known pharmacologist and botanist . John Edward Gray was the older brother of George Robert Gray (1808–1872), who was also a zoologist.

Live and act

His family moved to London , where Gray studied medicine. Gray helped his father write The Natural Arrangement of British Plants (1821). After being boycotted by the Linnean Society of London , his interests switched from botany to zoology . He started in the zoological department of the British Museum in London in 1824, helping John George Children catalog the reptile collection. In 1840 he took over the position of curator of Children and was himself curator of the zoology department from 1840 to Christmas 1874. He published several catalogs of the museum collection, which contained a detailed treatise on animal groups as well as descriptions of new species. He improved the zoological collection, making it one of the best in the world. Gray also had a reputation as a malacologist .

With 306 species of reptiles first described, it is one of the top herpetologists .

honors and awards

Initial descriptions


  • A synopsis of the genera and species of the class Hypostoma Asterias (Linn.) . In: Annals and Magazine of Natural History 6. 1840, pp. 275-290
  • Catalog of Shield Reptiles (1855 and 1870)
  • The Zoological Miscellany. To Be Continued Occasionally. London: Published by Treuttel, Wurtz and Co. (1831)

The philatelist

John Edward Gray was also very interested for the collecting of stamps . He claimed of himself to have been the first philatelist in the world. He would have collected stamps even before the first stamps were issued, namely tax and postage stamps of all kinds. On May 6, 1840, the day the first stamps were introduced worldwide in Great Britain , he bought several copies of these stamps with the intention to collect them.

Gray was interested in postage stamps all over the world. In 1862 he published the first forerunners of today's stamp catalogs under the name Hand Catalog of Postage Stamps .

In addition to him, the Strasbourg bookseller Oscar Berger-Levrault is awarded the invention of the stamp catalog. At that time, however, this stamp catalog was not yet intended for the public. Only the illustrated and greatly improved version by Alfred Potiquet , which appeared shortly afterwards, was available in bookshops.


Individual evidence

  1. Peter Uetz: The original descriptions of reptiles , Zootaxa, No. 2335, 2010, pp. 59–68, (PDF)
  2. Wolfgang Maassen: Philately and Associations in the 19th Century , Publisher: Phil Creativ, Schwalmtal 2006, ISBN 978-3-932198-69-4 , p. 191