President Richard C. Levin has appointed the distinguished evolutionary biologist Sir Peter Crane as dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
The John and Marion Sullivan University Professor in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, Crane 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,” 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; 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 Diversification of Land Plants” in 1997. He has written several other books and 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 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 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 1992-1999.
He earned his B.Sc. and Ph.D. in botany at 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 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 the 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 Chicago Botanical Garden and the Botanical Society of America Centennial Award.
Crane’s appointment at Yale as the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean is effective September 1, 2009. He succeeds James Gustave 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.”