Our history

The James Hutton Institute was formed in 2011 from a merger of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (MLURI) and the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI). These organisations had their own predecessors, as illustrated on the Hutton family tree.

We take our name from James Hutton (1726-1797), Scottish geologist, agriculturalist, chemical manufacturer, naturalist and physician. Often referred to as the “Father of Modern Geology”, he played a key role in establishing geology as a modern science.

Our scientists follow the inspiration of James Hutton and deliver global impact through excellent science, collaboration and innovation.


T.B. Macaulay, Macaulay Institute, unknown date.

The Macaulay Institute for Soil Research was founded in 1930 through a benefaction from one of Canada’s Scottish sons, Dr T.B. Macaulay (1860 – 1942), of the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. His aim was to improve the productivity of Scottish agriculture.

Dr Macaulay was a descendant of the Macaulays from the Outer Hebridean Isle of Lewis, Scotland. He was true to his Hebridean roots throughout his life, often giving large donations to Lewis, which funded various projects including a new library and a new wing at Lewis hospital.

In April 1987, the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research merged with the Hill Farming Research Organisation and became the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute (MLURI).

MLURI was established to carry out research in support of the agricultural industry, taking account of the interaction between the industry and other land users and set in the context of the environmental objectives of the UK Government and the European Union.

SCRI was created in 1981 with the amalgamation of the long-established Scottish Plant Breeding Station based in Pentlandfield, Edinburgh, and the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute in Invergowrie, Dundee.

It was in 1921 that the Scottish Plant Breeding Station (SPBS) was set up; at the same time as several other research stations, in response to recognition by farmers, landowners and the government that UK agricultural productivity and efficiency had fallen behind that of the rest of Europe and the world.

Some 30 years later the Scottish Horticultural Research Institute (SHRI) was established at the site of the former Mylnefield Farm on the western fringes of Dundee with the aim of undertaking organised research into the problems of horticultural production in Scotland.

As a world-leading centre of crop research and breeding a wide variety of crops have come under its gaze including brassicas, lilies and grasses but latterly focussed mainly on soft fruit, potatoes and barley.

Research has also been conducted into pests and diseases, sustainability, the impacts of climate change, biodiversity and high quality and healthy food.