By Kim Kaplan
June 17, 2014
WASHINGTON, June 17, 2014—The U.S. National Arboretum has awarded its Medal of Excellence to botanist and environmentalist Peter H. Raven in recognition of his career and scientific accomplishments as one of the world's foremost advocates for biodiversity. The Arboretum is operated in Washington by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the chief intramural scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"What Peter Raven has done to encourage people from the highest levels of policy making to the general public to care about protecting plants is remarkable," said Colien Hefferan, director of the Arboretum. "He literally transformed public gardens into tools of outreach to help people understand the value of science in preserving biodiversity and the conservation of plants. As a scientist and a person, he has made enduring contributions to the planet and its inhabitants."
Raven has promoted gardens and ornamental horticulture as a way to interest the public in conservation and supporting sustainable environments. Time magazine described Raven as a "Hero for the Planet" for his career as an outspoken leader championing research around the world to preserve endangered plants.
His scientific accomplishments encompass the fields of plant systematics, evolution and ecology. He may be best known scientifically for his important article entitled "Butterflies and Plants: A Study in Coevolution," published in the journal Evolution in 1964. He also wrote the widely used textbook "Biology of Plants."
Raven led the Missouri Botanical Garden from a quiet city garden to one of the world's great centers for horticultural research, education, and display during his 40 years as its director from 1971 until 2011. He is now the president emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden.
He has received many other prizes and awards, including the U.S. National Medal of Science, the nation's highest honor for scientific achievement; Guggenheim and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowships; and the International Cosmos Prize. He was also a member of President Clinton's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology, and served as home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences.
The arboretum's 446 acres in northeast Washington, D.C., serve the public need for scientific research, education, and gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment.
This is only the third time the U.S. National Arboretum has given its Medal of Excellence. The first time honored former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and her Committee for a More Beautiful Capital in 2002 for their sustained contributions in beautifying Washington, D.C., and other areas of the country with trees, flowers and other ornamental plantings as part of the Arboretum's 75th anniversary.
The other medal was awarded in 2011 to Robert Bartlett, chief executive officer of Bartlett Trees, who has dedicated himself and his company to researching and conserving trees on public and private lands through the development of science-based, sustainable management practices to protect and improve the tree canopy across the nation, including at Arlington National Cemetery.