Sir Peter R. Crane
|Year of election:||2004|
|Section:||Organismic and Evolutionary Biology|
CV Peter Crane - Englisch (PDF)
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Main areas of research: Macroevolution of plants, paleobotany, conservation of biodiversity, strategic planning for non‐profit organizations, special museums and botanical gardens around the world
Sir Peter R. Crane is an influential paleobotanist and evolutionary biologist. By making comparisons between fossils and the living plants of today this British researcher was able to obtain fundamental insights into the evolution of land plants and the development of a diversity of species. As the Director of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew he was actively involved in initiatives to protect biodiversity.
Crane´s work is guided by the conviction that knowledge of the past is essential for understanding the present – and vice‐versa. This integrative approach is especially evident in his studies concerning the evolution of flowering plants (“angiosperms”), the sudden appearance of which in the Cretaceous Period around 140 million years ago had already caused Charles Darwin a great deal of consternation. Crane relied both on fossil plant material as well as living plants of today in order to find basic patterns among all the diversity. Up until then paleontology and comparative morphology were for the most part separate disciplines.
Crane´s orientation towards so‐called “cladistics” had an enduring effect in that it paved the way for the use of new methods in his field. Cladistics is based on the evolutionary theory of closed descent communities (“clades”) and attempts to categorize organisms based on their shared derived characteristics, the search for which includes fossil plants and those of their offspring that are still living today. Even though the question of how flowers, carpels, stamens and other characteristic attributes of angiosperms could take form in such a relatively short period of time cannot be answered to this day, Crane was nonetheless able to provide a much clearer picture of their diversification – even accounting for the immense diversity of plants that comprises around 400,000 species on our earth.
For Crane, actively working for the conservation of natural resources and biodiversity was simply the logically consistent thing to do. He was thus the driving force behind the establishment of the Office of Environmental and Conservation Programs at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. The founding of "Chicago Wilderness”, an umbrella organization of more than 200 groups engaged in nature protection and biodiversity conservation, was also a result of his commitment.
Crane´s strategic farsightedness could be attributed to his having been named Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, one of the most important botanical gardens in the world. Under his leadership, the Kew Gardens were placed on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. The yearly number of visitors increased dramatically, not least because of his intense public relations work. The setting up of electronic databanks allowed researchers from all over the world free access to the Royal Botanic Gardens´ existing inventories. Sir Peter Crane was knighted in 2004 in recognition of his vast experience and contributions to botany and to the conservation of biodiversity. He is also sought out for consultation by numerous botanical gardens, universities, and other institutions, not only in Great Britain and the USA but also in, among others, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, The Netherlands, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Singapore, North Korea and China.
06108 Halle (Saale)
|Phone||0345 - 47 239 - 122|
|Fax||0345 - 47 239 - 139|