New centre to honour 'father of geology'

The new "super research institute" which is being formed from the Scottish Crop Research Institute at Invergowrie and Aberdeen's Macaulay Land Use Research Institute is to be named the James Hutton Institute in honour of the Scottish Enlightenment science pioneer.

James Hutton, who lived from 1726 to 1797, was a leading figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, an 18th century golden age of intellectual and scientific achievements centred on Edinburgh. His counterparts included Adam Smith, the economist, and David Hume, the philosopher and historian.

Hutton is internationally regarded as the father of modern geology and one of the first scientists to describe the Earth as a living system; his thinking on natural selection influenced Charles Darwin in developing his theory of evolution.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The James Hutton Institute will operate from the two existing sites and will employ more than 600 scientists and support staff, making it one of the biggest research centres in the UK and the first of its type in Europe. It is expected to set up an international office to reinforce its global presence.

The chief executive of the new organisation, Professor Iain Gordon, described it as wholly appropriate "that an interdisciplinary scientific research institute based in Scotland and seeking to operate and have impact internationally should bear James Hutton's name".

"I believe this decision will have strong political resonance in Scotland today where the ambition is to once again have Scotland punching well above its weight," he said

SCRI and the Macaulay already have extensive global connections: SCRI has international development links to Africa and trade links to China and the Macaulay is active in more than 40 countries worldwide. The two organisations also earn income from European Union funded research and from the private sector.

Both have international reputations for the quality of their scientific research, with SCRI's genetics team described as being "the world leader in barley and soft fruit genetics" by independent experts. It is estimated that 50 per cent of the blackcurrants grown around the world are SCRI-bred.

An independent survey on behalf of the Times Higher Education Supplement earlier this year ranked the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute as one of the most influential organisations in the fields of environmental and ecological sciences and it was ranked in the top 20 of all UK academic institutions.