By SARAH L. OSTLER
Paul Alan Cox, world-renowned botanist and former dean of general and honors education at BYU, was featured in an article in Time magazine this week.
The special edition of the publication focuses on doctors, researchers and patients who are “setting the pace of discovery,” according to the article.
Cox has long been involved with studying the medicinal values of rain forest plants. He raised money to save the 30,000-acre rain forest around the village of Falealupo in western Samoa.
“Fewer than 1 percent of the world’s 265,000 flowering plants, most inhabiting the equatorial regions, have been tested for their effectiveness against disease,” the article said. “Yet nearly a quarter of prescription drugs sold in the United States are based on chemicals from just 40 plant species.”
Cox first went to Samoa in 1973 to serve a mission. Since then he has returned many times.
“I think it’s great — what he’s doing,” said Bruce Roundy, chair of the botany and range science department. “He’s a global player.”
Currently, Cox is in Sweden on a leave of absence. He was invited by the King of Sweden and will be there for a year.
After his year in Sweden, Cox has accepted a two-year position as director of National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Hawaii, said Marilyn Asay, secretary to the dean of general and honors education.
“He’s a wonderful teacher because he’s so passionate about what he’s teaching. He genuinely wants you to learn and feel the same way about it that he does,” said Sunny Thompson, a senior majoring in psychology, from Odessa, Texas.
Cox comes from a very biology-oriented family. His father was a park ranger; his mother was a wildlife and fisheries biologist; his grandfather created the Utah state park system; and his great-grandfather was a founder of Arbor Day.
Following his mother’s death from a long and painful battle with cancer, Cox vowed to find the cure to whatever had caused her disease, according to the Time article.
Cox has written a book that will be published this fall that recounts his work and life in Samoa, “Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest.”
Nafanua is the name the people of Falealupo gave him in honor of a legendary Samoan warrior goddess who once saved the village from oppression and protected its forests.