Dr William J Baker

Senior Research Leader


Accelerated Taxonomy


Tree of Life


Fundamental plant diversity research, including taxonomy, systematics, phylogenetics, evolution and biogeography of angiosperms, especially palms

I am a systematic biologist, working in the fields of taxonomy, phylogenetics, evolution, biogeography and conservation of flowering plants. My work draws extensively on biological collections, especially at RBG Kew, spanning herbarium, lab and field to address fundamental questions in plant diversity research. Current research interests include:

  • The angiosperm tree of life – I lead Kew’s Tree of Life Initiative in which we aim to complete the angiosperm tree of life by sequencing all 13,600 genera using the universal genomic toolkit Angiosperms353. 
  • Palm systematics and taxonomy – Palms are a model group for tropical research and are of immense ecological and economic importance. I have specialised in the taxonomy, systematics and evolution of this fascinating family for the past three decades.
  • Applications of the tree of life – I am interested in exploring uses of the tree of life (and the data that underpin it) in broader comparative and applied research. Recent studies have addressed questions in global biogeography, biome evolution, speciation, trait evolution and sustainable management of natural resources. 
  • BA (Hons), Univ. Oxford, 1993
  • MSc, Univ. Reading, 1994
  • PhD, Univ. Reading, 1997
  • Member, IUCN SSC Palm Specialist Group

Baker, W.J., Bailey, P., Barber, V. et al. (2022)

A comprehensive phylogenomic platform for exploring the angiosperm tree of life.

Systematic Biology (online early)

Johnson, M.G., Pokorny, L., Dodsworth, S. et al. (including Baker, W.J.) (2019)

A universal probe set for targeted sequencing of 353 nuclear genes from any flowering plant designed using k-medoids clustering.

Systematic Biology 68: 594–606. [Flagged as “Highly Cited” by Systematic Biology]

Dransfield, J., Uhl, N. W., Asmussen, C. B., Baker, W. J., Harley, M. M. & Lewis, C. E. (2008).

Genera Palmarum – the evolution and classification of palms.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 732 pages Available in the Kew shop.

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