Paul Alan Cox is an American ethnobotanist whose scientific research focuses on discovering new medicines by studying patterns of wellness and illness among indigenous peoples. After receiving his B.S. in Botany and Philosophy from Brigham Young University, he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to read for his M.Sc. in Ecology at the University of Wales at Bangor. He received a Danforth Fellowship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship for his Ph.D. studies at Harvard University in Biology where, twice, he was awarded the Bowdoin Prize, a distinction he shares with Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was appointed as a Miller Fellow at the Miller Institutefor Basic Research in Science at the University of California, Berkeley and as a University of Melbourne Research Fellow in Australia. Early in his academic career he was named a National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator by Ronald Reagan, and used the research funds to pursue his interests in mathematical biology and ethnobotany.He is the author of over 220 scientific papers, reviews, and books and was chosen by Time magazine as one of eleven “Heroes of Medicine” in 1997 for his search for new medicines from plants.In 1997 he received the Goldman Environmental Prize for the conservation efforts described in his book, Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rainforest (New York: W.H. Freeman), which has been translated into German, Japanese, and Samoan. He speaks a variety of island languages and is internationally-renowned for his advocacy of indigenous peoples. Cox lived with his family in the village of Falealupo on Savai’i island in Samoa where he helped create a covenant with chiefs to protect their lowland rainforest from logging. In 1988, he was bestowed the Nafanua matai chief title by Falealupo, one of the highest legendary titles in Samoa, in honor of his conservation efforts.
Dr. Cox founded the environmental nonprofit organization, Seacology, located in Berkeley, California, which has preserved over 1.5 million acres of island forests and coral reefs, and was named a Laureate for the Prince’s Prize for Innovative Philanthropy in 2015 by Albert II, Prince of Monaco.