Easterfield’s decendant visits Cawthron

7 February 2023

The great-great-grandson of Cawthron Institute’s founding director Thomas Easterfield has been pleasantly surprised by his first ever visit to the organisation.

Matteo de Besi, an impact and sustainabiltiy officer for a fund management company in Germany, was encouraged by his grandmother to visit Cawthron Institute while touring New Zealand with his family this summer.

“It’s much bigger than I expected and very diverse,’’ Matteo said after meeting with Cawthron chief exeuctive Volker Kuntzsch this week.

“What the institute is doing and the focus on impact is very cool.’’

Matteo’s great-great-grandfather Sir Thomas Easterfield founded and led the Chemistry Department at Victory University of Wellington for 10 years. He delivered the first ever Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture in 1917 before being appointed founding director of the newly-established Cawthron Institute in 1919, a role he held until 1933.

Words spoken by Sir Thomas Easterfield in that inaugural lecture are permanently etched in the floor-to-ceiling windows of Cawthron’s Envirotech building, and his photo hangs in the boardroom of the Easterfield building, both on Cawthron’s main Halifax Street East site.

Matteo was born and raised in London and has a degree in biology. This is his first trip to Nelson. He said he always knew Cawthron Institute was involved in aquaculture research but he was impressed by all the work it was doing with algae and bioactives, and by the indigenous knowledge aspect which reminded him of his own time working with indigenous communities in Guatemala.

“I found the visit very interesting and I certainly felt a sense of pride that my great-great-grandfather had such a prominent role in building the institute.”

He looked forward to sharing details of his visit with his wider family. “My grandmother especially will be very excited.”

Two men standing in front of trees and a building.

Image: Cawthron Institute. Matteo de Besi and Volker Kuntzsch outside Cawthron’s Easterfield building which bears Matteo’s great-great-grandfather’s name.

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