Evolutionary Biologist Appointed Dean

Sir Peter Crane, a distinguished evolutionary biologist, has been appointed dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Crane, the John and Marion Sullivan University Professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, is the former director of England’s renowned Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Earlier in his career he also led the scientific programs at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

“Peter’s impressive record of research and conservation achievements and his stellar leadership of important scientific organizations will make him a superb dean of Yale’s environment school,” President Richard Levin said. “I am confident that he will add to the school’s century-long legacy of leading research and education in an era when advancing knowledge of the natural world and mankind’s impact on it has never been more important.”

Crane’s research is focused on the diversity of plant life, including its origin and fossil history, its current status and its conservation and use. Seeking to understand large-scale patterns and processes of plant evolution, he has worked extensively on questions relating to the origin and early diversification of flowering plants and, together with Paul Kenrick, published The Origin and Early Diversification of Land Plants: A Cladistic Study in 1997. He has written several other books and authored nearly 200 articles and essays.

Prior to his current appointment at the University of Chicago, Crane served from 1999 to 2006 as director and chief executive of Kew, one of the most influential botanical gardens in the world. At Kew, which has the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of living plants, Crane worked on the initial establishment of the Millennium Seed Bank Project and a variety of other programs in plant conservation.

He directed the Field Museum from 1995 to 1999, where he established the Office of Environmental and Conservation Programs and had overall responsibility for the museum’s work in science and conservation. His association with the Field Museum began in 1982, and he served as curator, department chair and vice president. At the University of Chicago, Crane was a professor in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences from 1992 to 1999.

He holds a B.Sc. and a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Reading, United Kingdom. He is a fellow of the Royal Society, a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences and a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He was a Senior Mellon Fellow of the Smithsonian Institution and serves on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Crane also serves on the boards of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, based at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome, and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, which facilitates land conservation in the Chicago area and low country of South Carolina.

He was knighted in the United Kingdom in 2004 for services to horticulture and conservation. His many awards include the Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society, the Henry Allan Gleason Award of the New York Botanical Garden, the Hutchinson Medal of the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Botanical Society of America Centennial Award.

Crane’s appointment at Yale as Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean is effective August 10, and he succeeds Dean Gus Speth, who, Levin said, has provided “superb leadership” since 1999.

“The new dean will inherit a school that has seen remarkable growth in faculty, student applications and the availability of scholarship assistance over the past 10 years,” Levin said. “Dean Speth, a passionate advocate for a greener Yale, has played a key role in increasing national and international awareness of climate issues.”

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“Peter’s impressive record of research and conservation achievements and his stellar leadership of important scientific organizations will make him a superb dean of Yale’s environment school.”
President Richard Levin