Peter H. Raven voted president-elect of AAAS

December 06, 1999


December 7, 1999 (Washington, DC)-Peter H. Raven, Ph.D., will become the next president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 23, 2000. Raven, the director of the Missouri Botanical Garden, is known for his work in understanding plants, conserving natural resources and protecting ecosystems around the world.

Two new members were also elected to four-year terms on the AAAS board: Nina Fedoroff, Ph.D., Willaman Professor of Life Sciences and director, Biotechnology Institute and Life Science Consortium, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, and Robert Richardson, Ph.D., F. R. Newman professor and vice provost for research, Cornell University.

Raven is a leading advocate for the preservation of biodiversity, lecturing around the world and writing dozens of books and articles to stop the destruction of the plant kingdom. He predicts that without drastic action, two thirds of the world's 300,000 plant species will be lost during the next century as their habitats are destroyed. Recently Time magazine labeled Raven one of the "Heroes of the Planet" for his work in understanding plants and the environment.

Fedoroff was previously with the Carnegie Institution of Washington. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous awards, including the John P. McGovern Science and Society Medal, Sigma Xi, 1997. Richardson won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1996. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and vice chair of the U.S. Liaison Committee of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

Raven, who is also the Engelmann professor of botany at Washington University in St. Louis, has focused his research on the systematics, evolution and biogeography of the plant family Onagraceae, which is one of the most thoroughly studied plant families of its size. He has developed Onagraceae as a model for understanding patterns and processes of plant evolution. Raven also studies plant biogeography-the evolutionary history of plants in certain regions-and the ways in which these organisms have been influenced by continental movements. The major emphasis of the research program at the Missouri Botanical Garden is in the tropics, where much of the biotic diversity of the earth is concentrated but scarcely known and is severely threatened by human activities.

Raven came to the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1971, and since then the garden has grown to be one of the foremost botanical research institutions in the world. The Garden recently built a $19.6 million Monsanto Research Center and became a partner in the $146 million Donald Danforth Plant Center. The Garden's library contains 122,000 volumes and its botanical database, TROPICOS, attracts thousands of visitors. The 79-acre facility includes an azalea-rhododendron garden, a bulb garden, a scented garden, two rose gardens, a garden for irises and day lilies, a garden for aquatic plants, a Japanese garden, an English garden and a home gardening center. Climatron, a geodesic greenhouse dome that rises 70 feet at the center and measures 175 feet in diameter at the base, houses a whole tropical rain forest under glass. And a herbarium contains over 5 million specimens. Raven oversees a staff of 354 people, including 52 Ph.D. botanists, and a budget of $22 million.

In 1987 Raven began the Flora China Project, a 20-year program that would turn out to be one of the largest scientific collaborations between the United States and China. Raven and his team of international colleagues are cataloging and describing the flora of China in this 50-volume publication, which will include about one-eighth of all the kinds of plants in the world. Flora China is being organized so that it will also be available electronically and interactively.

"Exploring the basic rules that govern the functioning and growth of living organisms, in a field that has exploded over the past half-century, takes on new meaning at a time when biological extinction has reached historical heights just as we are starting to understand what principles govern its organization and how we are to appreciate its diversity," said Raven in his AAAS election statement. "This loss will carry with it an enormous cost to human prospects for sustainable development, the maintenance of ecosystem services, and the enjoyment of life itself, but what we do in the immediate future can certainly improve the results we will see." He said that he would use his experience in the development of strategies to increase national investment in basic science and technology to enhance and expand those efforts at AAAS.

Raven was previously an associate professor with Stanford University and served as taxonomist and curator of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont, Calif. He has served as a fellow for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial and the New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. He received his A.B. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He served as home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and as member of the National Science Board. He is chair of the National Research Council's Report Review Committee, as well as a member of the President's Council of Advisors in Science and Technology. He is currently the chairman of the Committee for Research and Exploration of the National Geographic Society.

Raven is a member of the American Philosophical Society and a fellow at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has served as president of a number of societies, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the American Society of Naturalists and the Botanical Society of America. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the President's Conservation Achievement Award from The Nature Conservancy (1993), the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (with Arturo Goméz-Pompa, 1994) and the Philip Hauge Abelson Prize (1998). Raven is the author of numerous books and publications, including his co-authorship of the internationally best-selling textbook in botany, The Biology of Plants (Worth Publishers, Inc., New York), now in its sixth edition, and a leading textbook on the environment, Environment (Saunders College Publishing, Pennsylvania).

Born in China and raised in California, Raven was eight years old when he joined the student section of the California Academy of Sciences. His career was launched at the age of 14, when he discovered an overlooked shrub growing in the wilds of San Francisco, subsequently named the Raven's Manzanita (Arctostaphylos hookeri subsp. Ravenii).

When Raven becomes president-elect at the close of the 2000 AAAS annual meeting, the current president-elect, Mary Good, Ph.D., Donaghey university professor at the University of Arkansas Little Rock and managing member for Venture Capital Investors, LLC, will become president. Current president Stephen Jay Gould, Ph.D., professor of zoology and of geology at Harvard and curator of invertebrate paleantology at that university's Museum of Comparative Zoology, will succeed M. R. C. Greenwood, Ph.D., chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz, as chair.
Founded in 1848, AAAS is the world's largest federation of scientists and works to advance science for human well being through its projects, programs and publications. With more than 138,000 members and 282 affiliated societies, AAAS conducts many programs in the areas of science policy, science education and international scientific cooperation. AAAS publishes the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Science, as well as a number of electronic features on the World Wide Web.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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