Secretariat of the International Prize for Biology, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS)

International Prize for biology

30th Presentation Ceremony, Acceptance Address, Selection Process
Presentation Ceremony was held in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress on December 1st
The recipient of this year:

Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS,
Professor, Yale University, USA

Presentation Ceremony

  On December 1st, a presentation ceremony for the 2014 International Prize for Biology was held at the Japan Academy in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, Mr. Hiroshige Seko, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, and Mr. Tomohiro Yamamoto, Parliamentary Vice-Minister, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. At the ceremony, Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS was presented the Prize of ten-million yen and a medal by Dr. Sugimura, Chair of the Committee, along with an Imperial gift from His Majesty the Emperor.

  Congratulatory remarks were delivered by Prime Minister Abe (read by Mr. Seko.) and Minister Shimomura (read by Mr. Yamamoto). The ceremony ended with an acceptance address from  Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS. Following the ceremony, a reception honoring Professor Sir Crane was held in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress.

Reception   Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS, holding Imperial Gift with his wife
Reception   Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS,
holding Imperial Gift with his wife

Acceptance Address by Professor Sir Peter Crane

Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS   

Professor Sir Peter Crane FRS

  Thank you for this opportunity to express my appreciation for the Award of the International Prize for Biology. I am honored to receive this Prize in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress, and in the field of Systematic Biology and Taxonomy that His Majesty has advanced through his research on the taxonomy of gobioid fishes. All of us engaged in the science of biological diversity are privileged to be able to count His Majesty as a colleague. I am also deeply grateful to the directors and committee members of The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for this recognition.

  I first visited Japan as a young man almost 45 years ago. Already by then I had been exposed to the thrill of making original discoveries that shine new light on the past. Very early I also benefited from training in the systematics of living plants, as well in palaeobotany. Ever since, I have been fortunate in the institutions with which I have been associated, the teachers and mentors who have supported me, and the colleagues with whom I have been privileged to work. It is an honor for me to have so many of those colleagues and other friends here today, along with my unfailingly supportive wife Elinor.

  A pervasive theme in my research, which has also seen greater emphasis in palaeobotany as a whole over the past few decades, has been the integration of information from fossils and living plants toward a more complete understanding of botanical evolutionary history. Such integration has been facilitated by the development of phylogenetic methods, but also requires fossils that are preserved sufficiently well to allow meaningful comparison with living counterparts.

  In the case of early land plants, advances in research on Silurian and Devonian fossils eventually made it possible to combine palaeobotanical discoveries with insights from living “green algae”, “bryophytes” and vascular plants into a new and more comprehensive understanding of the initial diversification of plants on land.

  In the case of angiosperms, pioneering research on exquisitely preserved ancient flowers by Else Marie Friis in the early 1980s opened up a new and unexpected field of study. In particular, the material that Else Marie Friis, Kaj Raunsgaard Pedersen and myself have investigated from the Early Cretaceous of eastern North America and Portugal, combined with improved knowledge of living angiosperms, has provided a more detailed glimpse into the early evolution of flowering plants than would previously have been thought possible. The same approaches are also providing new insights into other extinct seed plants, some of which are undoubtedly relevant for understanding angiosperm origins.

  In paleontology we rely heavily on using the present to interpret the past. Yet at the same time, the importance of contingency and extinction, both in ecology and evolution, reminds us that understanding the present also requires understanding history. The value of paleontology lies not simply in extrapolating the present back into the past, but in expanding knowledge, by illuminating ancient worlds that often differed in important ways from the world of today. Such perspectives, rooted in deep history, emphasize the grandeur of evolution over vast spans of geologic time. They also underline the need for enlightened environmental management in the face of rapid contemporary environmental change. In honoring how the past helps us understand the present The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science reminds us of our place in the world, and the value of humility as we together influence the future of our planet.


Report on the Process of Selection

Dr. Yoshinori Fujiyoshi, Chairman   
Selection Committee for the 30th International Prize for Biology   

Dr. Yoshinori Fujiyoshi, Chairman

  Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

  On behalf of the Selection Committee for the 30th International Prize for Biology, it gives me great pleasure to report on this year’s selection process.

   The Selection Committee consisted of twenty members, including myself. Four of our members were highly authoritative overseas researchers who were specially commissioned to serve on the Committee.

   The field chosen for the prize this year was systematic biology and taxonomy. The Committee distributed a total of 1,165 recommendation forms to Japanese and foreign universities, research centers, academic associations, individual researchers, and international academic organizations involved in this field of biology, and received a total of 54 recommendations in response. As some of these recommendations named the same individuals, the actual number of individuals recommended was 40, from 18 countries throughout the world.

   The Selection Committee met a total of four times and very carefully reviewed all the candidates. Ultimately, the Committee decided to recommend Dr. Peter Crane of the United Kingdom to the Prize Committee as the recipient of the 30th International Prize for Biology.

   Dr. Crane was born in 1954 and is of British nationality. He obtained his doctorate from the University of Reading in 1981. He has since served as a curator and then director of the Field Museum in Chicago, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and professor at the University of Chicago, all the while pursuing a prolific research career in plant systematics and taxonomy. He is currently a professor at Yale University.

   Until the 1970s, the phyletic evolution of plants was studied independently from two separate angles of approach: paleontology, which uses plant fossil data, and various fields which look at living plants. Dr. Crane broke new ground by integrating information from these two areas into a comprehensive study, in which he posited phyletic relationships among groups of seed plants by using cladistics to analyze data from both extant seed plants and a wide array of fossil seed plant groups. Through this pioneering technique of integrating information from the paleontological record and living plants in a synthetic analysis, he has consistently been a world leader in plant systematics analysis and has thereby contributed greatly to the advancement not only of systematics and taxonomy, but of all the biological sciences.

   In making our selection, the major criteria used by the Selection Committee were the originality of the candidate’s research, its international significance, its influence on the selected field of biology, and its contribution to advancing progress in biological science as a whole. We found Dr. Peter Crane’s work to more than amply satisfy every one of these criteria and, on this basis, we judged him to be the most highly suited candidate to receive this year’s International Prize for Biology.

   The Committee on the International Prize for Biology accepted our recommendation of Dr. Peter Crane and has bestowed upon him the 30th International Prize for Biology.

   With this, I conclude my report on the process of selection.