Peter Crane (1954-)
Previously at the Chicago Field Museum, Professor Sir Peter Crane became Director of Kew in 1999.
He left in September 2006 to return to full-time academic work
at the University of Chicago, having given us ‘seven
years of superb scientific leadership complemented by great energy’.
He successfully steered the Gardens through a period
of great change and development. New works at Kew included
the Davies Alpine House and the Wolfson Wing of the Jodrell
Laboratory, and work started on the extension to the Herbarium and Library. The Orangery and Nash Conservatory were restored and Climbers & Creepers
opened at Kew. At Wakehurst Place, the restaurant facilities were rebuilt and a new Visitor Centre opened. Scientific contributions also increased
and a huge festival programme was offered. Kew and Wakehurst
came to be enjoyed by almost two million visitors a year.
Crane is an internationally respected researcher in palaeobotany,
studying fossilised pollen, flowers and leaves in order to
understand the evolutionary history of plants. He is shown
holding a 45 million-year-old fossil birch leaf (Betula leopoldae)
and a twig from a modern descendant (Betula alleghaniensis).
Changes to DNA sequences accumulate as species evolve and
become distinct. Comparing the changes in different species
indicates the order in which they diverged. However, the
rate of DNA change is unsteady, and so to calibrate it in geological
time, we need hard evidence from the fossil record. By comparing
the evolutionary relationships suggested by a variety of methods,
we can gain a better understanding of evolutionary history.
Fellow of the Royal Society 1998
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