Published on 10th May 2022
We are absolutely thrilled to announce that Dr Sandra (Sandy) Knapp, President of the Linnean Society and botanist at the Natural History Museum, London, has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society today. She was also recently awarded the 2022 David Fairchild Medal for Plant Exploration by the National Tropical Botanical Garden, USA.
Sir Adrian Smith, President of the Royal Society said, “Through their careers so far, these researchers have helped further our understanding of human disease, biodiversity loss and the origins of the universe. I am also pleased to see so many new Fellows working in areas likely to have a transformative impact on our society over this century, from new materials and energy technologies to synthetic biology and artificial intelligence. I look forward to seeing what great things they will achieve in the years ahead.”
"My science has taken me all over the world, where I have met so many people whose love of nature and passion for its survival are truly inspirational. Support for taxonomy is at the heart of the Linnean Society – it forms the bedrock from which we can build a better future where nature is understood, valued and protected.”
“This is a huge honour for me, said Dr Knapp. “But it also belongs to all those who have worked with me on my journey to understand the taxonomy and evolutionary relationships of the nightshade family Solanaceae. The basic species-level taxonomy of the mega-diverse genus Solanum, whose members include potatoes, tomatoes and aubergines, is the basis for understanding biogeography, relationships and character evolution in these fascinating and useful plants. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with plant breeders to use wild species to help adapt crops for climate change – a challenge for all of us. My science has taken me all over the world, where I have met so many people whose love of nature and passion for its survival are truly inspirational. Support for taxonomy is at the heart of the Linnean Society – it forms the bedrock from which we can build a better future where nature is understood, valued and protected.”
Dr Knapp was the Linnean Society of London’s Botanical Secretary (2006–2011) and has also served as Vice-President (2008–2012). She was elected to be the President of the Linnean Society in 2017. Dr Knapp was also awarded the Linnean Medal for her service to science in 2016.
Dr Gail Cardew, CEO of the Linnean Society, congratulated Dr Knapp on behalf of the Linnean Society for this momentous achievement, which recognises a lifetime of scientific research and fieldwork that aligns with our vision – to create a world where nature is understood, valued and protected.
“Over her Presidency, she has been the driving force behind many powerful transitions and achievements – the launch of a new open access journal, a thorough and much-needed governance review, a focus on the climate emergency and the acquisition of a painting, a natural history treasure, by renowned artist John Tyley, to name but a few. And no less importantly, she has achieved this with grace and kindness, attributes that make her an outstanding role model for leadership and mentorship. An FRS is much deserved,” added Dr Cardew.
Dr Knapp’s five-year tenure at the Society has set it on a route that will ensure her legacy for years to come.
Royal Society citation for Dr Sandy Knapp
Dr Knapp has made major contributions to our understanding of plant evolution and tropical biodiversity. Her studies on the potato and tomato family (Solanaceae) using rigorous phylogenetic analyses, have led to novel insights into the biogeography, dispersal and origins of important crop plants and their relatives, as well as insights into the processes of speciation and adaptive radiation of plant reproductive traits. She has taken a leadership role promoting novel initiatives for documenting tropical plant biodiversity, and has been a ceaseless public advocate for its conservation and appreciation.
Watch Dr Knapp’s Presidential address at the Linnean Society Anniversary Meeting on 22 May, 2020, on ‘Diversity and distribution in the Solanaceae’.