Ray S. Bassler (1878-1961) was born in Philadelphia. Bassler spent his childhood in Cincinnati where he came into personal contact with some noted geologists, including Charles Schuchert, Carl Ludwig Rominger, and Edward Oscar Ulrich. While in high school, Bassler sold fossils for Ulrich.
In 1902, Bassler received a B.A. degree from the University of Cincinnati and received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in 1903 and 1905, respectively, from George Washington University. From 1904 to 1948 he was an Assistant Professor of Geology there.
Bassler joined the United States National Museum staff as Assistant Curator in the Department of Geology's Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology in 1904. Three years later he was promoted to Curator in the Department's Division of Invertebrate Paleontology. From 1910 to 1922 he was Curator of the Division of Paleontology, and from 1923 to 1928, Curator of the Division of Stratigraphic Paleontology. In 1929 he was appointed Head Curator of the Department of Geology, a position which he held until his retirement in 1948 when he was appointed Associate in Paleontology.
Bassler's main interest was with the Tertiary Polyzoa of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. In this study, he collaborated with Ferdinand Canu of France from 1905 to 1931.