Press Release

Director of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to step down

4 November 2005: The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew announced today that Director, Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS will step down in summer 2006 after seven years in the job. He will return to the USA to take up a new position at the University of Chicago in order to devote more time to research, teaching and writing in plant science, evolutionary biology and conservation. The search for his successor in one of the world’s most prestigious botanical-horticultural posts will begin immediately.

Lord Selborne, Chairman of Trustees, said “Peter has been an inspiration to all who work for Kew. The Trustees wish to put on record their appreciation for the leadership that Peter has given since 1999. In his time as Director, Kew ’s contribution to plant science has been of global importance and its reputation as a centre of excellence has never been higher. We send him, Elinor and his family our very best wishes for their future in Chicago.”

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew receives 60% of its annual funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Speaking in London today Lord Bach, minister with responsibility for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, said: "The announcement of Sir Peter Crane's departure next year as Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew gives me the opportunity to record his considerable achievements in the last 6 years. The inscription of Kew as a World Heritage Site, is the most tangible of his accomplishments: this however has to be seen in the context of the increased global profile both scientifically and educationally of this world renowned institution, and the instigation of a major Site Development Plan, to which Defra is contributing significant capital funds.

"Sir Peter has encouraged greater access - for education, science and pleasure - to the Royal Botanic Gardens sites at Kew and Wakehurst Place. The Government places great emphasis on this aspect of his achievements which is of benefit to over one-and-a-half million visitors annually.”

"I want to thank Sir Peter for all he has done to improve Kew 's already world-class reputation and to wish him well in his new post at the University of Chicago. I shall shortly be putting in place the arrangements for the appointment of his successor."

Peter Crane said “ Kew has been at the centre of my life for the past seven years. It is very hard to let go. However, world-leading organisations like Kew need a regular infusion of new ideas and energy to stay at the top of their game. This is also the right time for me to return to Chicago ”. Prior to his appointment at Kew Sir Peter spent 17 years in Chicago as the Director of the Field Museum of Natural History.

The period of Sir Peter’s tenure at Kew has seen momentous development and change. In 2003 the Gardens were inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Its scientific and conservation programmes have been strengthened at home and abroad. The Millennium Seed Bank project is now working with partners from 17 countries from its base at Kew ’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, to secure long-term conservation of more than 20,000 plant species. Vast, newly created, electronic databases are dispersing Kew ’s knowledge freely throughout the scientific world, and the staff is active in over 40 overseas countries, working with local communities and specialists on conservation and biodiversity projects. Meanwhile, over the past six years, Kew and Wakehurst Place have reached out more effectively to family audiences. Attendance at Kew has increased from 862,000 in 1999/00 to a projected 1.35 million in 2005/06. At Wakehurst attendance has increased from 275,000 in 1999/00 to a projected 430,000 in 2005/06.

Sir Peter, the 12th Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is married to Elinor Hamer Crane from Chicago who he met while working in the US. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. They have two children, Sam (10) and Emily (15), who attend schools in south-west London.


The Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, is responsible for the world’s largest collection of living plants; two major visitor attractions at Kew and Wakehurst Place in Sussex ; historic collections assembled over 250 years; and vital scientific programmes that reach out across the world in support of biodiversity and conservation. The organisation employs more than 650 scientists and other staff. The living collections include more than 30,000 different kinds of plants, while the herbarium, which is the largest in the world, has over 7 million preserved plant specimens. The library contains more than 750,000 volumes, and the illustrations collection contains more than 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. The Kew site includes four Grade I listed buildings and 36 Grade II listed structures in an internationally significant landscape. In July 2003, after much preparatory work, Kew Gardens was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

During Peter Crane’s administration, the main achievements and emphases have been in the following areas:

Science and Conservation

  • Increasing Kew ’s contributions to biodiversity conservation in the UK.
  • Strengthening research in plant sciences
  • Expanding and strengthening conservation programmes internationally
  • Opening The Wellcome Trust Millennium Building and development of the Millennium Seed Bank project overseas
  • Developing, funding and implementing online electronic access to Kew ’s resources
  • Influencing international biodiversity policy especially through the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation
  • Achieving new levels of international co-operation to promote plant diversity science and conservation
  • Developing international scientific capacity for plant conservation projects
  • Expanding specialist use of Kew ’s collections

Infrastructure, Support and Heritage

  • Major heritage projects including securing World Heritage Site status and working closely with Historic Royal Palaces on the reopening of Kew Palace scheduled for spring 2006
  • Improvements in infrastructure including the installation of a new water distribution across the Kew landscape
  • Improvements to scientific facilities including expansion of the Jodrell Laboratory and projected expansion of the Herbarium and Library
  • Streamlining and modernising administrative arrangements including securing Investors in People status
  • Diversifying the finances of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • Developing a new approach to sustainability including ISO 14001 accreditation
  • New administrative arrangements introduced at Wakehurst Place
  • Volunteer programme established across both sites and all key departments
  • New approach to horticultural training

Visitors and Education

  • Greatly enhanced public profile including through two BBC Two television series “A Year at Kew”
  • Attracting larger and more diverse audiences to Kew and Wakehurst Place
  • Expanding public access to the Kew behind-the-scenes collections
  • Introduction of new public festival and educational programmes
  • New and refurbished buildings for public use
  • Expanding public use of the Kew website

Further information

For further information please contact Sue Runyard, Head of Corporate Communications and PR, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Telephone 020 8332 5607. E-mail

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB.

For further Press information please contact:


Public Relations
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Surrey TW9 3AB

Tel: +44 (0)20 8332 5607/5619


Wakehurst Place:

Public Relations
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Wakehurst Place
West Sussex RH17 6TN

Tel: +44 (0)1444 894018