The American Society of Plant Taxonomists (ASPT) has awarded Hans Walter Lack the 2017 Peter Raven Award. Dr. Lack was based at the Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-Dahlem and served in the role as the Director of the Botanical Museum until his retirement in 2015. There Dr. Lack worked tirelessly in research and outreach. The award is named for Peter Raven, eminent botanist and President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden, and is awarded annually by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists to a plant systematist who has made exceptional efforts at outreach to non-scientists.
Lack’s nomination came from fellow scientists working at nine institutions in four countries. Each attested to Dr. Lack as an internationally recognized scholar with a long history of service to the plant systematics and biology communities as well as the public during a long and productive career that includes more than 50 years of service and nearly 400 publications. He organized a large number of special exhibitions relating to botanical science at his home institution in Berlin as well as at institutions in Oxford and Vienna. Dr. Lack’s research and scholarship showcase his meticulous research, a deep understanding of the material, and an uncanny ability to write an erudite but captivating account.
His many books are accessible to a wide readership and a number of them have received important awards. Richly illustrated, his writings are a treasure trove of inspiration for scientists, artists, and general readers across the world and delve into topics that range from the biology of flowers to the history of plant taxonomy and scientific expeditions, botanical art, and economic botany. The Book of Palms has been well-received and is published in multiple languages. His efforts to bring botanical art to the attention of the public have resulted in five books, three of which have been published in the last few years: A Garden Eden: Masterpieces of Botanical Illustration, Redouté: Selection of the Most Beautiful Flowers, and The Bauers: Joseph, Franz & Ferdinand: Masters of Botanical Illustration. Each of these present exceptional reproductions of stunning botanical art and represent platforms that Dr. Lack has used to blend art and science in effective communication vehicles that address these important topics. Dr. Lack has a long history working on the family Asteraceae, particularly the tribe Cichorieae and has made many major contributions including the tribal treatment for Families and Genera of Vascular Plants and the chapter for the book Compositae. He has authored numerous articles in magazines and newspapers on topics such as flower biology, scientific expeditions, the history of plant taxonomy, botanical art, biographies of botanists, and plants in ancient Egypt.
Lack studied biology at the University of Vienna and received his PhD in 1973. He has had held many appointments at numerous institutions including Munich University, Freie University, Palermo University, Patras University, Pisa University, Magdalen College, and others in addition to his appointment at the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum at Berlin-Dahlem. He was inducted as a foreign member of the Linnean Society of London in 2001.