The James Hutton Institute, formerly the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and originally set up in 1930 as the Macaulay Institute for Soil Research, has a long tradition of innovative research into the clay mineralogy of rocks and soils, much of which has focused on the ways in which these difficult materials can be characterised and identified. Many outstanding scientists associated with research into the chemistry and mineralogy of clays have served on the Institute staff including

  • V M Goldschmidt - recognized as the founder of the subject of Geochemistry
  • D M C MacEwan - established the theoretical basis for the analysis of mixed layer minerals and developed the organic complex technique for identifying smectites
  • R C Mackenzie - became the world's leading expert on the thermal analysis of clay minerals
  • G F Walker - elucidated the structure of vermiculite and developed methods for its identification
  • V C Farmer - pioneered the use of infrared spectroscopy for the characterisation and identification of clay minerals and the way in which they interact with organic compounds
This tradition of research into clay mineralogy has continued in the Institute to this day and, for example, Steve Hillier is the 2008 winner of the Reynolds Cup, an international competition for quantitative clay mineral analysis organized by The Clay Minerals Society (CMS), whilst honorary fellow of the Institute Jeff Wilson is a recent recipient of the CMS Bailey Award for scientific excellence in clay research.
The Institute has been associated with commercial work connected with clay mineralogy from both local and international sources since the establishment of the oil industry in Aberdeen in the late 1960s, and this work has been successfully developed under the aegis of Macaulay Scientific Consulting Ltd (now part of James Hutton Limited). In this connection, a recent development is the setting up of a Clay Technology Unit aimed at characterising the technological properties of clay materials and providing independent and objective interpretations and advice, as well as suggesting solutions to the problems that such materials cause.