Our identity and approach to science is strongly influenced by our past.

Cawthron Institute was established in 1919 by the last will and testament of Nelson philanthropist Thomas Cawthron who had a vision – that science could contribute to the growth of a young New Zealand.

Following his death in 1915, Cawthron bequeathed the equivalent of $127 million* in today's New Zealand dollars - the largest single bequest in New Zealand at the time – to establish and maintain a technical school, institute and museum; the forerunners of today's Cawthron Institute.

Cawthron Institute was officially opened in Nelson in 1921 following the establishment of the Cawthron Institute Trust Board.

Fellworth House was purchased in 1920 as the headquarters for Cawthron Institute – Photo: Nelson Provincial Museum

From past to present

Since the beginning we have firmly focused on research that contributes to the economic growth of New Zealand and the preservation of its special environment.

From the 1920s onwards, our scientists applied their expertise to agricultural research to support the pipfruit and hop growing industries. Then, as timber exports took off, they progressed to forestry research.

Today our science is strongly focused on protecting marine and freshwater environments, and supporting sustainable development of the dairy, seafood and aquaculture sectors.

This pragmatic approach has worked for Cawthron Institute, and the industries our research has underpinned, for over 90 years.

* An Appetite for Wonder – Cawthron Institute 1921-2011 by Deirdre Mackay

Thomas Cawthron had a vision for science contributing to New Zealand's growth.