Chelsea Physic Garden welcomes new Chair Designate

Chelsea Physic Garden is delighted to welcome Dr Paul Thompson to our board of Trustees. Dr Thompson will assume the role of Chair in January 2023 on the retirement of our current Chair, Michael Prideaux at the end of 2022.

Dr Paul Thompson is a leading authority on art and design having worked at the intersection of culture and education for over thirty years. As a leader of several international institutions including The Royal College of Art, the National Design Museum in New York, and the UK’s Design Museum he has always sought to champion an environment of creativity and design where innovators of all kinds can flourish. Dr Thompson has been Vice-Chancellor of the Royal College of Art since 2009 where he has shifted the academic vision of the institution, introducing scientific members of faculty alongside traditional craft-based practitioners, developed international partnerships, created a business innovation incubator as well as the opening of a new state-of-the-art building at Battersea, designed by Herzog and de Meuron.

On his appointment Dr Thompson said:

“I am incredibly honoured to be appointed to such a prestigious role at Chelsea Physic Garden. A place close to my heart and steeped in history, Chelsea Physic Garden is a truly beautiful site in the heart of London, and one which is invaluable in educating people about the value of plants, biodiversity, and their role in addressing climate change.

From a very early age, I’ve enjoyed propagating plants and creating gardens in small, often inhospitable, spaces. The Chelsea Physic Garden has everything: history, flora, sanctuary, design, and a focus on just why biodiversity and greening our urban areas matter so much. When the Garden was first conceived, the idea of ‘useful plants’ was probably confined to their healing properties. Today, as we face a climate crisis, ‘useful planting’ to cool our cities and help restore our biodiversity takes on an even more critical dimension.”

I look forward to supporting my fellow trustees in our mission and bringing my passion for education from across the river at the Royal College of Art. The two institutions, though quite different, share many of the same ideals about evolving our people and planet sustainably and innovatively.”

Dr Thompson will join the Garden in a momentous year, heading up the organisation during our 350th anniversary. We look forward to his passion and expertise informing our work as we contemplate the Garden’s next 350 years and its role in a modern, diverse London.

The Garden’s Director, Sue Medway, said:

“It is exciting to welcome someone of Dr Thompson’s calibre to the Garden’s leadership. Next year is a unique moment for the Garden, and not something that many institutions get to celebrate. I know that Dr Thompson will be able to support and amplify our existing plans, helping the Garden to be even more ambitious.”

As an independent charity Chelsea Physic Garden is governed by a board of trustees. For more information on trustees please visit This dedicated group of volunteers lend their time, experience, and passion each year to safeguard the legacy of our Garden.