Ghillean Prance wearing glasses and shirt smiling to camera with tree backdrop

Doctor of Science

An acclaimed plant taxonomist who has furthered scientific and public understanding of botany and ecology.

Born in Suffolk, Sir Ghillean Prance was educated at Malvern College, Worcestershire and Keble College, Oxford where he obtained a BA in Botany and a DPhil for his Taxonomic Study of Chrysobalanaceae.

He began his career with The New York Botanical Garden in 1963 as a research assistant, subsequently becoming B.A. Krukoff Curator of Amazonian Botany. He progressed to become Vice-President of Research and, finally, Senior Vice President for Science in 1981. He set up the Garden’s Institute of Economic Botany and was its first Director from 1981 - 1988.

He was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew from 1988 to 1999 and was Scientific Director of the Eden Project in Cornwall from 1998 to 2010.

He was an adjunct Professor of New York’s City University (1967 - 1998), has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Reading since 1998, and was a Visiting Professor in Tropical Studies at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies of Yale University (1983 – 1988). From 2000 to 2002, he was McBryde Professor at the US National Tropical Botanical Garden in Hawaii, where he is a McBryde Senior Research Fellow.

Trained as a plant taxonomist, Sir Ghillean spent over 8 years in fieldwork and botanical exploration on 39 expeditions to Amazonian Brazil. He was the founder Director of Graduate Studies at Brazil’s Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas, setting programmes in botany, ecology, entomology and ichthyology.

He is keenly interested in the sustainable development of rainforest ecosystems, conservation worldwide, and helping to control climate change. The author of 27 books and editor of a further 15, he has published over 600 scientific and general interest papers on plant systematics, plant ecology, ethnobotany and conservation.

He is a Fellow of numerous organisations, including The Royal Geographical Society, the Explorers Club, the Linnean Society of London and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He has served as President for associations that include the Association of Tropical Biology (1979 - 1980), the Systematics Association (1989 - 1991), the Institute of Biology (2000 - 2002), the American Association of Plant Taxonomists (1984 - 1985), and Christians in Science (2002 - 2008).

Sir Ghillean chaired the Advisory Committee of Sustainable Forestry Management Ltd. from 2004 to 2009 and The Global Diversity Foundation from 1999 to 2008. He was the founder Chair of the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest Trust (1999 - 2012) and is currently President and Chair of the MEMO Trust (2008 -). He has been President of the Wild Flower Society since 2005 and is a deacon of Lyme Regis Baptist Church.

He holds Honorary Doctorates from universities globally and has received extensive honours, including the New York Botanical Garden’s Distinguished Service Award (1986), the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Henry Shaw Medal (1988), the Linnean Medal for Botany (1990), the Royal Geographical Society’s Patron’s Medal (1994), the Botanical Research Institute of Texas’ International Award of Excellence (1998), the Royal Horticultural Society’s Victoria Medal of Honour (1999), the David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration jointly with his wife Anne (2000), the Brazilian Botanic Garden Network’s Graziela Maciel Barroso Prize (2004), the Allerton Award (2005), and the Lifetime Discovery Award from the Royal Geographical Society and Discovery Channel (1999).

In 1993, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the International Cosmos Prize for his environmental work in Amazonia. He was knighted in 1995, received the Order of Commander of the Southern Cross from Brazil in 2000 and the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan in 2012. He is a foreign or overseas member of the science academies of Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Sweden and the Third Word Academy of Sciences.