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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



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Not all scientific work in New Zealand is undertaken through the channels already described. There remain, in particular, certain privately endowed and otherwise financed institutions and activities. Chief amongst these is the Cawthron Institute, arising from a large bequest from Thomas Cawthron, of Nelson. Established in Nelson in 1920, its main effort has been devoted to solving problems in agriculture and horticulture of special significance to New Zealand. It now collaborates very closely with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Other privately endowed, activities have stemmed largely from a desire on the part of the community that every effort should be made to prosecute medical research with full vigour, and several active research centres in the Otago Medical School (founded 1875) are at least partly financed by private or publicly subscribed funds. These include a cancer research laboratory, initially established through the assistance of the New Zealand Branch of the British Empire Cancer Campaign and strengthened through the Hugh Adams Cancer Research Fund of the Medical School and by the Medical Research Council. In 1940 the Travis research trustees established a laboratory for the study of the intermediate metabolism of the acid-fast bacteria associated with tuberculosis, and more recently various medical research foundations have been set up in different centres to foster medical research, such as the Auckland Medical Research Foundation (1956). The Auckland Division of the British Empire Cancer Campaign Society in addition supports a research laboratory in Auckland.

The State contribution to medical research is largely channelled through the Medical Research Council, initially a Department of Health departmental committee, but since 1950 an independent authority. It maintains research units in the Medical School and generally facilitates and encourages medical investigation.

Finally, mention may be made of the continuing contribution to science of the various museums, and of some of the quasi-amateur organisations, notably in astronomy, which carry out scientific investigations, and of the fructifying influence of private and corporate gifts, particularly to the universities, for the support of full-time research.

National Expenditure on Science

It is quite impossible to draw up a precise statement of national expenditure on science, partly because of the multitudinous sources of expenditure, partly because of the difficulty of defining those activities which are to be classified under this heading. Nevertheless, a reasonable picture may be obtained from the budgets of several of the major national organisations which undertake substantial responsibilities for scientific activity.

The latest consolidated information available is that provided in the tables, taken from the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the State Services in New Zealand (Appendix 7, p. 447, Government Printer, 1962), which set out in convenient form the estimated expenditure for 1961–62 by State Departments and other agencies. A more detailed analysis of expenditure on research may be found in Scientific Research in New Zealand—Expenditure and Manpower 1953–62 (Information Series No. 41, New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government Printer, 1964).

by Stanley Nelson Slater, M.SC.(N.Z.), D.PHIL.(OXON.), F.R.I.C., Professor and Head of Chemistry Department, and Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Victoria University of Wellington.

  • Directory of New Zealand Science, Jansen, H. (ed.), (4th ed. 1962)
  • New Zealand and Science, Jenkinson, S. H. (1940)
  • Science in New Zealand, Callaghan, F. R. (1957)
  • New Zealand Science Review, Vol. 9 (1951), “The History of Scientific Endeavour in New Zealand”, Dick, I. D.
  • Transactions of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Vol. 80 (1952), “A Retrospect and a Prospect of New Zealand Science”, Callaghan, F. R.
  • Directory of New Zealand Science, ed., Jansen Henk (4th ed. 1962).