Cristián Samper

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Cristián Samper
Photo portrait of Cristián Samper
Official Portrait from the Smithsonian Institution
Born (1965-09-25) September 25, 1965 (age 48)
San José, Costa Rica
Citizenship Costa Rica, Colombia, United States
Nationality Colombian-American
Fields Biology
Institutions Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute (1995-2001)
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (2001-2003)
National Museum of Natural History (2003-present)
Alma mater University of the Andes (B.Sc.)
Harvard University (M.Sc., Ph.D.)
Notable awards Derek Bok Public Service Prize (1992)
Cristián Samper K's Signature
This name uses Spanish naming customs; the first or paternal family name is Samper and the second or maternal family name is Kutschbach.

Cristián T. Samper Kutschbach (born September 25, 1965) is a Colombian-American biologist and president and chief executive officer of the Wildlife Conservation Society.[1] He was acting secretary of the Smithsonian from 2007 to 2008, the first Latin American to hold the position.[2][3] From 2003 to 2012, he was the Director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Samper was born on September 25, 1965 in San José, Costa Rica, the youngest child of Armando Samper Gnecco, an Agronomist and Economist from Colombia, and Jean Kutschbach, an American from New York State. He was raised in Colombia, the country of his father, Armando Samper, from one year of age. His other siblings were Marta, Belén, and Mario.[4]

Samper graduated in 1987 from the University of the Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, with a B.Sc. in Biology. He then moved to the United States to attend Harvard University, where he graduated in 1989 with a M.Sc., and received his Ph.D. in Biology in 1992 with his dissertation Natural disturbance and plant establishment in an Andean cloud forest.[5]


Back in Colombia, he participated and collaborated with the creation of the Colombian Ministry of Environment in 1993, and was successful in conceiving the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, a public funded research institute of which he became its first Director from 1995 to 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Chairman of the Subsidiary Body of Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, a post he held until 2001. He was Deputy Director and staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.[6]

In 2003, Samper became the Director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.. In 2006, he made some controversial changes to an exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, "Seasons of Life and Land".[7] Following the resignation of Secretary Lawrence M. Small in the wake of inquiries into personal expenditures, the Board of Regents appointed Samper as the Smithsonian's Acting Secretary in 2007 and 2008.[8] He returned to the museum in July 2008 upon the appointment of current Secretary G. Wayne Clough. In July 2012, he stepped down from the directorship of the museum to assume the position of president and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society.[9]

Samper is on the board of the Nature Conservancy[10] and the World Wildlife Fund.[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 2002 he married Adriana Casas Isaza, an environmental lawyer from Colombia with whom he has two children, Carolina (b. 2006), and Martín (b. 2009).[12][13]


  1. ^ a b Parker, Lonnae O'Neal. "Smithsonian Names New Director of Natural History Museum." Washington Post. July 26, 2012.
  2. ^ Tucker, Neely (2007-03-27). "Smithsonian Taps Scientist As Acting Secretary". Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  3. ^ "Biologist at the Helm | Science & Nature | Smithsonian Magazine". Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  4. ^ Samper, Cristiám (2008-12-11). Construir Una Visión Para El Futuro (Speech). Turrialba, Costa Rica. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  5. ^ Samper K, Cristián (1992). Natural disturbance and plant establishment in an Andean cloud forest (Thesis). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. OCLC 35826937. 
  6. ^ "Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - Executive Staff - Cristián Samper". Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  7. ^ "Scientists Fault Climate Exhibit Changes", The Washington Post, James V. Grimaldi, Jacqueline Trescott, November 16, 2007
  8. ^ "Smithsonian's Small Quits in Wake of Inquiry," Washington Post, Jacqueline Trescott, James V. Grimaldi, March 27, 2007. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  9. ^ Smithsonian Newsdesk, January 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
  10. ^ "About The Nature Conservancy - Board Member Profiles". Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  11. ^ "WWF - Who We Are - Board of Directors". Retrieved 2010-07-27. 
  12. ^ Tucker, Neely (2007-03-27). "Smithsonian Taps Scientist As Acting Secretary". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 
  13. ^ Fog, Lisbeth (2010-02-11). "Cristián Samper". Universia Colombia (in Spanish): 2. Retrieved 2010-11-02. 

External links[edit]