John Gaudet

"Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World"

Friday, January 15th, 2015

6:30-7:00 pm: Pre-Lecture Reception ($5.00/person) 

7:00 pm: Lecture

Abstract:  In ancient times, papyrus grew thickly along the banks of the Nile River, all the way from Lake Victoria to the delta at the Mediterranean shores.  From Neolithic times to about 3000 BC Egyptian civilization might not have developed without papyrus.  In the Nile Valley on a day-to-day basis papyrus was used for boats, baskets, sandals, and an incredible amount of rope, which they exported as a valuable commodity to developing navies of the time.   

 Quite apart from their usefulness to people, papyrus swamps, one of the most productive ecosystems on earth, played a key role in creating and maintaining habitats for birds, fish, and mammals. 

 Ancient Egyptians in 3000 BC turned papyrus into paper and for the next 4,000 years provided the world with the medium of choice.  First used to record their Book of the Dead, a guide to the underworld, papyrus was ideal for keeping business accounts, temple records, medical texts and hundreds of thousands of books in the libraries of Alexandria, Athens, Rome and Constantinople. 

 Fast forward to today, a grim tour of Africa's water world where papyrus swamps used to abound takes us from the Nile delta, which is subsiding, becoming saline and dangerously polluted; past the ancient swamps of Lake Chad, a system that had almost dried up; and to the largest listed wetland in the world, the Sudd in South Sudan, where an attempt to drain it by digging the Jonglei Canal triggered a water war.

Also at the lecture:

Gaudet will bring along a replica of a Book of the Dead scroll and some sheets of papyrus paper

During the Pre-Lecture Reception, raffle items of journals, jewelry, DVDs, etc., are offered. ARCE-DC members receive an extra raffle ticket.

Meet-the-Speaker & Networking Dinner: Immediately after the lecture, join ARCE-DC members and guests for a dinner with the speaker. We meet at the Beacon Bar & Grill-- located across the street from the lecture site, on Rhode Island Ave. Each attendee pays for their own dinner and contributes an extra $5.00 to defray the cost of the speaker's dinner.  RSVP to Carol Boyer at     

Bio: A Fulbright Scholar to both India and Malaya, John Gaudet is a writer, lecturer and ecologist (PhD University of California, Berkeley). He is the author of many scientific papers on the ecology and development of papyrus swamps.  His early research on the ancient aquatic plant, papyrus, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, took him to Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, and many other places in Africa where papyrus grows.  His writings have appeared in the Washington Post,, and Huffington Post.  Gaudet is the author of Papyrus, The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars, a book published by Pegasus, NY. Harvard University’s Belfer Center voted it the "Innovation Book of the Week" and declared it "A masterpiece of economic and historical botany."  See more at: or contact him at: