Sandra Knapp

Sandra Diane Knapp FLS (born 1956) is an American born botanist. She is currently the president of the Linnaean Society and is a merit researcher of the Plants Division of the Natural History Museum, London. While working at the Natural History Museum, London she has overseen the Flora Mesoamericana inventory of Central American plants. She has published several books on botanical subjects as well as a significant number of scientific articles. In 2016 she was awarded the Linnean Medal.

Sandra Diane Knapp
Sandy Knapp collecting Solanum sinuatiexcisum - TS 2012.jpg
Born1956 (age 63–64)
Alma mater
EmployerNatural History Museum, London


Knapp has a B.A. in botany from Pomona College (1978) and a Ph.D. from Cornell University (1986), where she worked with Michael D. Whalen.[1]


Knapp specialises in various taxa within the genus Solanum , including the Geminata clade, the Dulcamaroid clade, the Thelopodium clade, the Pteroidea group and the tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and relatives. She is also an expert in other taxa within the nightshade family (Solanaceae), including the genus Nicotiana and the genera Anthocercidae and Juanulloeae.[2]

Knapp has collected plants in Central and South America for the Missouri Botanical Garden and Cornell University, among others. She has also worked for the Institute for Botanical Exploration at Mississippi State University.

Since 1992, Knapp has been active as a scientific researcher in the botany department of the Natural History Museum in London[3]. She is involved in field work and research in the herbarium. She also contributes to taxonomic research of the Geminta and Dulcamaroid clades, in particular in the context of the Planetary Biodiversity Inventory project Solanum, a worldwide research project to map nightshades. She participates in a collaborative project to clarify the genomic evolution of Nicotiana. She is also active in involving the private sector in the implementation of the biodiversity treaty in Gran Chaco. She is an editor of the Flora Mesoamericana publication series, a project aimed at mapping as many plants as possible found in Mesoamerica .

She has authored several books on botany or botanical exploration and has written over 200 peer reviewed scientific articles.[3] The French-language edition of her book Potted Histories, entitled Le Voyage Botanique, was awarded the Prix Pierre-Joseph Redouté in 2004, a prize that was established in 2000 in honour of the best French-language plant book in a given year.

She has also published numerous botanical names, in particular taxa within the Nightshade family. Knapp has published three botanical names of passion flowers (Passiflora ) together with lepidopteran James Mallet . One of them, Passiflora macdougaliana, they named after Passiflora specialist John MacDougal . MacDougal himself named Passiflora sandrae after Knapp.

Committees, panels and societiesEdit

She is a member of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council Innovator of the Year panel, a member of the Shenzhen Declaration for Plant Sciences Committee, and a member of the National Geographic Grants Committee.[2] In May 2017 Knapp became the president-elect of the Linnaean Society, and in May 2018 succeeded Prof. Paul Brakefield as president.[4] She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[5]

Scientific outreachEdit

In October 1999, Knapp discussed her book Footsteps in the Forest: Alfred Wallace in the Amazon on the BBC World Service's Science in Action.[6] Knapp was an interviewed guest on BBC Radio 3's Night Waves in July 2013 in a segment about Alfred Russel Wallace.[7] She appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme In Our Time in May 2014 to explain photosynthesis.[8] In October 2014 Knapp was a guest on BBC Radio 4's The Museum of Curiosity. Her hypothetical donation to this fictional museum was the South American freeze-dried potato product Chuño.[9] A year later, in Natural History Heroes, a series collaborating between Radio 4 and the Natural History Museum, London she chose "Miss - not Dr - Alice Eastwood" as her hero.[10] In July 2017, Knapp was a guest on the BBC World Service's The Forum, where she discussed Carl Linnaeus.[11] In October 2019 Knapp appeared on In Our Time, this time to talk about hybrids.[12]


In 2016 she was awarded, jointly with Georgina Mace, the Linnean Medal of the Linnean Society.[13] In 2009 she was presented with the Peter Raven Outreach Award for public engagement with science by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the UK National Biodiversity Network's John Burnett Medal.[5] The University College London and Stockholm University have both awarded Knapp with honorary professorships.[3]


  • Footsteps in the Forest: Alfred Wallace in the Amazon. London: The Natural History Museum. 1999. ISBN 978-0-565-09143-9.
  • Potted Histories: An Artistic Voyage Through Plant Exploration. London: Scriptum. 2003. ISBN 978-1-902686-28-8.
  • Flora: The Art of Plant Exploration. London: The Natural History Museum. 2014. ISBN 978-0565093341.


  1. ^ "Sandra Knapp". Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  2. ^ a b "Dr Sandra Knapp". Staff Directory. Natural History Museum. Retrieved 23 November 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Dr Sandy Knapp - NBN Conference 2019". National Biodiversity Network. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  4. ^ The Linnean, Vol. 33, No. 2, Oct. 2017, p. 44, Published by The Linnean Society of London
  5. ^ a b "Sandra Knapp". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  6. ^ Presenter: Dee Palmer; Guest: Sandra Knapp; Producer: Helen Sharp (4 October 1999). "Outbreak of Parasitic Liver Disease in China". Science in Action. 14:54 minutes in. BBC. BBC World Service. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  7. ^ Presenter: Rana Mitter; Interviewed guests: Jim Endersby, Sandra Knapp, Peter Raby (1 July 2013). "Vali Nasr, Alfred Russel Wallace, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Mount Fuji". Night Waves. 15:19 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio 3. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  8. ^ Presenter: Melvyn Bragg; Guests: Nick Lane, Sandra Knapp, John Allen; Producer: Thomas Morris (15 May 2014). "Photosynthesis". In Our Time. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  9. ^ "The Museum of Curiosity: Series 7 Episode 2". BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  10. ^ "BBC Radio 4 Extra - Natural History Heroes, Alice Eastwood". BBC. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  11. ^ Presenter: Quentin Cooper; Guests: Sandra Knapp, Staffan Müller-Wille, Lisbet Rausing (8 July 2017). "Carl Linnaeus: Naming nature". The Forum. BBC. BBC World Service. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  12. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, Hybrids". BBC. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  13. ^ "The Linnean Medal". the Linnean Society. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  14. ^ IPNI.  S.Knapp.

External linksEdit