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International Cosmos Prize

The Prizewinner 1993

Name Sir Ghillean Prance
Born on 13 July 1937
Nationality United Kingdom
Title Director,
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew,

Reason for Awarding

The academic contributions by Dr. Prance center on his excellent achievements concerning plant diversity. Although the groups of plants on which he has concentrated are mainly trees in the Amazonian region, he has been interested consistently in the patterns of plant diversity in the New World tropics, where biological diversity is on the highest. He has also been in charge of promoting the “Flora Neotropica Project” in his capacity as secretary general of the project. Meanwhile he has advocated the necessity of compiling the “Flora on the Earth” while contributing to the establishment of the International Organization for Plant Information. By this means, he has attempted to provide a unified view of all plants on earth. He has also devoted much attention to the relationship between plants and humans and expanded his field of study in ethnobotany, econobotany. In the field of conservation, he has made outstanding contribution by fostering studies of their cultured requirements in the laboratory.

Since he became Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Dr. Prance has successfully built on the foundations of study carried out there for more than two centuries, and developed new programs in plant conservation, data processing, economy botany, and education.

From these excellent results and achievements, it is clear that he has contributed to the symbolic developments of plants and humans, by grasping the relationship between nature and humans in a unified manner and from a global standpoint.


1952 - 1956 Malvern College
1957 - 1963 Keble College, University of Oxford, England
1963 Ph.D. (Forest Botany)
Subject of thesis: “A Taxonomic Study of Chrysobalanaceae”
1968 - 1975 Curator of Amazonian Botany, New York Botanical Garden
1975 Director of Botanical Research, New York Botanical Garden
1977 Vice President, New York Botanical Garden
1981 Senior Vice President and Director,
New York Botanical Garden Institute of Economic Botany
1988 - 1999 Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
1988 - Visiting Professor, Reading University
1993 Fellow of the Royal Society
1995 Created Knight Bachelor
2000 - Scientific Director, the Eden Project


  1. Chrysobalanaceae: Flora Neotropica 9, 409pp.1972.
  2. Phytogeographic support for the theory of Pleistocene forest refuges in the Amazon Basin, based on evidence from distribution patterns in Caryocaraceae, Chrysobalanaceae, Dichapetalaceae and Leoythidaceae.
    Acta Amazonica 3 (3):5-28. 1974.
  3. “Extinction is Forever”. Proceedings of a “Symposium on the status of Threatened and Endangered Plants of the Americas" The New York Botanical Garden 1977 (Co-editor T. S. Elias).
  4. The Actinomorphic-flowered New World Lecythdaceae.
    Lecythidaceae-Part I. Flora Neotropica 21 : 1-270. 1979.(With Scott A. Mori).
  5. “Biological Diversification in the Tropics”: Proceedings of the 5th ATB Symposium, Caracas, Venezuela, 1979 (Edited G. T. Prance) Columbia University Press, 1981.
  6. “Ethnobotany in the Neotropics” Advances in Economic Botany Vol. 1. 1984 (Co-editor J. Kallunki).
  7. “Amazonia” Key Environments, Pergamon Press, 1985 (Co-editor T. E. Lovejoy).
  8. Quantitative Ethnobotany and the Case for Conservation in Amazonia Conservation Biology Vol.1 No.4 1987
  9. “Biogeography and Quaternary History in Tropical America”, Oxford Monographs on Biogeography 3. 1987, Clarendon Press, Oxford (Edited with T. C. Whitmore).
  10. The Present State of Tropical Floristics, Taxon 37(3),1988
  11. The Genera of Chrysobalanaceae: a study in practical and theoretical taxonomy and its relevance to evolutionary biology. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. London B. 320: 1-184. 1988 (With F. White).
  12. “Tropical Forests and World Climate” Proceedings of an AAAS Symposium, Westview Press, 1981.
  13. American Tropical Forest. Tropical Rain Forest Ecosystem, ed. by H. Lieth and M. J. A. Werber
  14. “White Gold”, The diaries of an Amazon rubber tapper. Synergetic Press, 1989.
  15. Taxonomy, Ecology, and Economic Botany of the Brazil Nut. Advances in Economic Botany 8,1990
  16. Consensus for Conservation. Nature, Vol.345, No.6274 1990
  17. Future of the Amazonian Rainforest. Futures, November 1990
  18. New Directions in the Study of Plants and People.
    Advances in Economic Botany Vol.8, 1990 (Co-editor M. J. Balick).
  19. Reproductive Biology and Evolution of Tropical Woody Angiosperms. Mem. New York Botanical Garden 55, 1990 (Co-editor G. Gottsberger).
  20. Biodiversity-The Richness of Life. Save the Earth, by Jonathan Porritt 1991
  21. Missionary Earth Keeping, Mercer University Press, 1992 (Co-editor C. B. Dewitt)
  22. Changes and disturbance in tropical rainforest in South-East Asia. Imperial College Press, London, 2000 (Co-editor D. M. New berry & T. H. Clutton-Brock)

* titles as of the time of winning the prize