Peter Crane to give PBK lecture on the history and culture of the Ginkgo

  • on 18 Feb 2013
  • Convocation Hall
peter crane

Sir Peter Crane will be on the Sewanee campus as the 2012-13 Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar. He will give a lecture, “Ginkgo: The History and Culture of the World's Most Ancient Tree,” at 4:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Ginkgo is perhaps the world’s most distinctive and ancient tree. An arboreal oddity with one of the longest of all botanical pedigrees, Ginkgo has a life story deeply intertwined with that of our planet. Ginkgo grew up with the dinosaurs, before the Atlantic Ocean existed, and has come down to us almost unchanged for 250 million years. Crane’s forthcoming book provides the inside story of the life of a singular botanical survivor. Ginkgo, once a relic, is now resurgent and has returned to many places where its ancestors once lived. It is among the most popular of herbal remedies and one of the world’s most important street trees. From Berlin, London and Manhattan to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo, ginkgo is an increasingly ubiquitous backdrop to the bustle of modern city life.

Peter Crane has been Carl W. Knobloch Jr. Dean of the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale since 2009. His work focuses on the diversity of plant life; its origin and fossil history, its current status, and its conservation and use. He is the coauthor of The Origin and Diversification of Land Plants and most recently Early Flowers and Angiosperm Evolution. His latest book, A Biography of Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot, will be published in March. From 1992 to 1999 he was director of the Field Museum in Chicago. In 1999 he was appointed director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, one of the largest and most influential botanical gardens in the world. There, along with other programs on conserving and understanding plant diversity, he worked on the initial establishment of the Millennium Seed Bank. He returned to the U.S. in 2006 as the John and Marion Sullivan University Professor at the University of Chicago.

Elected to the Royal Society in 1998, Crane was knighted in the United Kingdom in 2004 for services to horticulture and conservation. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and a member of the German Academy Leopoldina. He serves on the board of WWF-US, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and several other organizations involved in the conservation of biodiversity.

Since 1956, the Phi Beta Kappa Society's Visiting Scholar Program has been offering undergraduates the opportunity to spend time with some of America's most distinguished scholars. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students. Visiting Scholars meet informally with students and faculty members, participate in classroom discussions and seminars, and give a public lecture open to the entire academic community.