Peter Crane

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Peter Crane in 2014

Sir Peter Crane, FRS (born 18 July 1954) is the current President of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation. As well as his work leading educational and natural history organizations such as the Field Museum in Chicago and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, he has had a long career as a professor and researcher. His popular writing includes Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, a book that traces the evolution and natural history of Ginkgo biloba to the present day.[1][2]

Personal life and education[edit]

Peter Crane was born in the United Kingdom. He attended the University of Reading,[3] where he received his B.Sc. in Botany, with honors, in 1975. He then received his Ph.D. in Botany from Reading in 1981, where he wrote a thesis titled, "Studies on the Flora of the Reading Beds (Upper Palaeocene).”[4]

Crane is married with two children, a daughter and son.[5]


Peter Crane has held positions at the University of Reading, the Field Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the University of Chicago, Yale University and the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, among others. He has also held visiting or part-time positions at universities and museums around the world. The following section discusses some of his professional accomplishments in more detail.[4]

The Field Museum of Natural History[edit]

Crane spent about 17 years working at the Field Museum of Natural History. Following a postdoctoral research position at Indiana University, Bloomington, Crane began in the Field Museum's Geology department as assistant curator of paleobotany. From 1982 to 1992, he held a variety of curatorial positions in the Department of Geology. Following a brief period as a Vice-President of the museum, Crane became Director of the Field Museum in 1995.[4][6] His tenure as Director of the Field Museum included the acquisition of "Sue," a well-preserved and almost complete Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Sue has since become an iconic fixture at the Field Museum.[7][8][9]

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew[edit]

In 1999, Crane left the Field Museum to become Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.[4][10] Crane sought to better connect the conservation and botanical work at Kew with the public side of the institution.[10] Crane's time at Kew included the initial development of the Millennium Seed Bank, the attainment of UNESCO World Heritage site status, an embrace of digital technology, as well as an increase in the presence of seasonal themes and festivals. His tenure at Kew saw increased visitation and emphasized the importance of biodiversity and the world of plants.[10]

Yale University[edit]

Upon taking the position at Kew, Crane had said that he would not spend the rest of his career there.[11] True to his word, Crane left Kew in 2006 to return to the United States, taking a University Professorship at the University of Chicago.[12][4] Crane spent three years at the University of Chicago before becoming the Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES) (succeeding James Speth).[13][14] His arrival in 2009 coincided with the rippling effects of the Great Recession, and Crane played an important role in stabilizing the school's finances. Among his many regular duties, he was involved in a variety of projects to provide student financial support and to increase student involvement in research. He also forged connections with other graduate programs (including the Yale School of Management). Crane also recruited several new scholars to the school and sought to strengthen programs supporting diversity and inclusion. In regards to research, Crane worked to increase research collaboration within the school.[15][16]

Oak Spring Garden Foundation[edit]

In June 2016, Crane moved to northern Virginia to lead The Oak Spring Garden Foundation, a nascent nonprofit founded by the landscape designer and fashion icon Rachel "Bunny" Lambert Mellon.[16] Located on part of the Mellons' former Virginia estate, called Oak Spring, the Foundation's mission is to "support and inspire fresh thinking and bold action on the history and future of plants, including the art and culture of plants, gardens and landscapes."[17] Containing Bunny Mellon's gardens and rare book library, the Oak Spring Garden Foundation supports research and scholarship relating to the diversity and future of plants; the art of plants, gardens, and landscapes.[18] Crane is the inaugural president of the Foundation.[17]

Research and publications[edit]

Peter Crane's research interests include:

  1. Large-scale patterns and processes of plant evolution, plant paleontology.
  2. Integrated paleobotanical and neobotanical studies of plant diversity and evolution.
  3. Conservation of plant diversity, including crop diversity.
  4. Strategic planning for collections-based not-for-profit organizations, especially museums and botanical gardens.

As well as numerous scientific and popular articles, Crane has written Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, been an editor for peer-reviewed journals such as Paleobiology and The Botanical Review of the Linnaean Society, and contributed as editor to multiple volumes on the evolution and conservation of plants.[4][6] He also co-wrote two major books on plant evolution. The first, written with Paul Kenrick, is titled: The Origin and Diversification of Land Plants. The second, written with Else Marie Friis and Kaj Pedersen in 2011, is titled Early Flowers and Angiosperm Evolution.[19][20][12]

Honors and awards[edit]

He is a fellow of the Royal Society (1998), a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences (2001),[5] a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences since 2002, and a Member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (German National Academy of Sciences, 2004).[21] He was awarded a knighthood on 12 June 2004.[22] In 2014 he won the International Prize for Biology.[23]

Further reading[edit]

"Pulling up roots" an interview with Peter Crane by Stuart Jeffries. The Guardian. 29 April 2006.


  1. ^ "Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  2. ^ "The Life Story of The Oldest Tree on Earth - Yale E360". Retrieved 2018-05-02.
  3. ^ Moon, Vicky (August 26, 2016). "He curates Bunny Mellon's legacy of garden and design". Fauquier Now. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Peter Crane | Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies". Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  5. ^ a b "Doctor of botany returns a knight". Retrieved 2016-09-09.
  6. ^ a b "Yale-NUS College". Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  7. ^ "311: Dr. Peter Crane: A Botanist Who Rose to Prominence Studying the Evolution and Diversity of Flowering Plants - People Behind the Science Podcast". Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  8. ^ "John McCarter, Field Museum CEO, plans to retire in 2012". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  9. ^ jhoog (2011-03-09). "SUE the T. rex". The Field Museum. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  10. ^ a b c Ray., Desmond, (2007). The history of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (2nd ed.). London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 9781842461686. OCLC 183416451.
  11. ^ Jeffries, Stuart (2006-04-29). "Saturday interview: Sir Peter Crane". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  12. ^ a b "Doctor of botany returns a knight". tribunedigital-chicagotribune. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  13. ^ Yale Daily News: "F&ES unearths new dean"
  14. ^ "Sir Peter Crane Appointed Dean of Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies". YaleNews. 2009-03-04. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  15. ^ "Crane, Forestry dean, to depart in June". Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  16. ^ a b "Peter Crane to step down as dean of F&ES". YaleNews. 2015-09-14. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  17. ^ a b "Oak Spring Garden Foundation Homepage". Oak Spring Garden Foundation. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  18. ^ "Oak Spring Garden Foundation Mission + Values". Oak Spring Garden Foundation. Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  19. ^ Friis, Else Marie; Crane, Peter R.; Pedersen, Kaj Raunsgaard (2011-08-18). Early Flowers and Angiosperm Evolution. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139496384.
  20. ^ Press, Smithsonian Institution Scholarly. "The Origin and Early Diversification of Land Plants: A Cladistic Study - 1560987294 | Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press". Retrieved 2018-05-30.
  21. ^ "List of Members". Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
  22. ^ "The Gazette: Official Public Record". August 25, 2005. Retrieved September 10, 2016.
  23. ^ "Dean Peter Crane Wins Prestigious International Prize for Biology". Retrieved 2018-05-30.