Ghillean Prance

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Sir Ghillean Prance
Born Ghillean Tolmie Prance
(1937-07-13) 13 July 1937 (age 80)[1]
Brandeston, Suffolk, England[1]
Nationality British
Alma mater Keble College, University of Oxford
Known for Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (1988–1999)[2]
Scientific career
Fields Botany
Institutions New York Botanical Garden (1963–1988)[1]
Thesis A taxonomic study of the Chrysobalanaceae (1963)

Sir Ghillean Tolmie Prance FRS FLS FRSB (born 13 July 1937) is a prominent British botanist and ecologist[3] who has published extensively[4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] on the taxonomy of families such as Chrysobalanaceae and Lecythidaceae, but drew particular attention in documenting the pollination ecology of Victoria amazonica.[16][17] Prance is a former Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[2]

Early life[edit]

Prance was born on 13 July 1937 in Brandeston, Suffolk, England.[1] He was educated at Malvern College and Keble College, Oxford.[18] In 1957, he achieved BSc Biology. In 1963 he received a D. Phil. in Forest Botany from the Commonwealth Forestry Institute, Oxford.[1]


Prance worked from 1963 at The New York Botanical Garden, initially as a research assistant and, on his departure in 1988, as Director of the Institute of Economic Botany and Senior Vice-President for Science.[1] Much of his career at the New York Botanical Garden was spent conducting extensive fieldwork in the Amazon region of Brazil.[1] He was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1988 to 1999.[2]

Later work[edit]

Since his retirement[when?] he has remained very active, notably involving himself with the Eden Project. Prance, a devout Christian, is currently the chair of A Rocha[19] and was president of Christians in Science 2002–08.[20]

He is actively involved on environmental issues, a trustee of the Amazon Charitable Trust,[18] and a Vice-President of the Nature in Art Trust.[21] He has been president of the UK Wild Flower Society for several years.[22][23]


Prance was knighted in 1995. He has been a Fellow of the Linnean Society since 1961, a Fellow of the Royal Society since 1993 and was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour in 1999.[2] He was awarded the Patron's Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in 1994.[24]

In 2000 he was made a Commander of the Order of the Southern Cross by the President of Brazil.[18] In 2012 he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays and Neck Ribbon by the Government of Japan.[25]


Two photographic portraits of Prance are held at the National Portrait Gallery, London.[26]

A biography of Prance was written by Clive Langmead.[3]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Sinon, Stephen (August 2000). "Records of the Herbarium (RG4) GHILLEAN T. PRANCE RECORDS (1963–1988)". Archives and Manuscript Collections. New York Botanical Garden. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Ghillean Prance (1937–)". Kew, History & Heritage. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Langmead, Clive (2001). A Passion for Plants: Life and Vision of Ghillean Prance, Director of Kew Gardens. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens. ISBN 1-900347-76-8. 
  4. ^ Bebber, D. P.; Carine, M. A.; Wood, J. R. I.; Wortley, A. H.; Harris, D. J.; Prance, G. T.; Davidse, G.; Paige, J.; Pennington, T. D.; Robson, N. K. B.; Scotland, R. W. (2010). "Herbaria are a major frontier for species discovery". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 107 (51): 22169–22171. PMC 3009773Freely accessible. PMID 21135225. doi:10.1073/pnas.1011841108. 
  5. ^ Prance, G. T. (2002). "Species survival and carbon retention in commercially exploited tropical rainforest". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 360 (1797): 1777–1785. Bibcode:2002RSPTA.360.1777P. PMID 12460497. doi:10.1098/rsta.2002.1041. 
  6. ^ Brown, S.; Swingland, I. R.; Hanbury-Tenison, R.; Prance, G. T.; Myers, N. (2002). "Changes in the use and management of forests for abating carbon emissions: Issues and challenges under the Kyoto Protocol". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 360 (1797): 1593–1605. Bibcode:2002RSPTA.360.1593B. PMID 12460486. doi:10.1098/rsta.2002.1021. 
  7. ^ Prance, G. T. (2000). "Ethnobotany and the future of conservation". Biologist (London, England). 47 (2): 65–68. PMID 11190230. 
  8. ^ Prance, G. (1999). "The poisons and narcotics of the Amazonian Indians". Journal of the Royal College of Physicians of London. 33 (4): 368–376. PMID 10472027. 
  9. ^ Morton, C.; Mori, S.; Prance, G.; Karol, K.; Chase, M. (1997). "Phylogenetic relationships of Lecythidaceae: A cladistic analysis using rbcL sequence and morphological data". American journal of botany. 84 (4): 530–540. PMID 21708605. doi:10.2307/2446029. 
  10. ^ Dalton, H.; Goodwin, B.; Ho, M. W.; McGlade, J.; Prance, G.; Saunders, P.; Sherratt, D.; Smith, J. M.; Whittenbury, R. (1997). "Patent threat to research". Nature. 385 (6618): 672. PMID 9034179. doi:10.1038/385672a0. 
  11. ^ Prance, G. T. (1991). "What is ethnobotany today?". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 32 (1–3): 209–216. PMID 1881159. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(91)90120-3. 
  12. ^ Prance, G. T. (1982). "Threatened Plants". Science. 216 (4549): 977–978. PMID 17809062. doi:10.1126/science.216.4549.977. 
  13. ^ Mori, S. A.; Orchard, J. E.; Prance, G. T. (1980). "Intrafloral Pollen Differentiation in the New World Lecythidaceae, Subfamily Lecythidoideae". Science. 209 (4454): 400–403. PMID 17747812. doi:10.1126/science.209.4454.400. 
  14. ^ Fidalgo, O.; Prance, G. T. (1976). "The ethnomycology of the Sanama Indians". Mycologia. 68 (1): 201–210. PMID 934181. doi:10.2307/3758915. 
  15. ^ Prance, G. T. (1973). "The mycological diet of the Yanomam Indians". Mycologia. 65 (1): 248–250. PMID 4734424. doi:10.2307/3757814. 
  16. ^ Prance, Anne E.; Sandved, Kjell Bloch; Prance, Ghillean T. (1993). Bark: the formation, characteristics, and uses of bark around the world. Portland, Or: Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-262-5. 
  17. ^ Sandved, Kjell Bloch; Prance, Ghillean T. (1985). Leaves, the formation, characteristics, and uses of hundreds of leaves found in all parts of the world. [New York]: Crown. ISBN 0-517-55152-7. 
  18. ^ a b c "Professor Sir Ghillean Prance". Trustees. Amazon Charitable Trust. Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  19. ^ "International Trustees". A Rocha. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  20. ^ "Presidents". Christians in Science. Retrieved 17 March 2013. 
  21. ^ "Nature in Art Trust". Nature in Art Trust. Retrieved 23 March 2010. 
  22. ^ Wild Flower Society: Floral fixation, The Independent, 23 August, 2010
  23. ^ The Wild Flower Society website
  24. ^ "List of Past Gold Medal Winners" (PDF). Royal Geographical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  25. ^ "Decorations for two worthy recipients celebrated at the Embassy". Embassy of Japan in the UK. December 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2017. 
  26. ^ "Sir Ghillean Tolmie Prance (1937–), Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens". Collections. [[National Portrait Gallery, London|]], London. Retrieved 25 February 2014. 
  27. ^ IPNI.  Prance. 

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