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The history of Sciences at Otago

Newvale -web fossilised leaves captured in lignite. Image taken by Jennifer Bannister from Department of Geology Science at Otago had its beginnings when the University of Otago was established in 1869 with three professorial chairs - one of which was Mathematics. A fourth chair in Natural Science was established in 1872 as the result of a grant from the Provincial Council, which considered that this would be beneficial to the province.

Initially the Bachelor of Arts was the only undergraduate degree offered at Otago, although it included science subjects. Science was not constituted as a faculty until 1944.

Over the years the Faculty of Science grew, and by the mid 1980s it included nine departments - Botany, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Mathematics and Statistics, Physics, Psychology, Surveying and Zoology.

In 1989 the Division of Sciences was established following the amalgamation of these departments, as well as the School of Consumer and Applied Sciences (encompassing the disciplines of Human Nutrition, Clothing and Textile Sciences, Community and Family Studies, Design Studies, and Food Science), and the School of Physical Education.

By 1992 the Department of Marine Science had also been founded. In 2001 the Applied Science degree was developed, combining the strengths of innovative science with essential business skills. This degree is interdisciplinary, maximising existing teaching and research.

Student numbers within the Division continue to grow, both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as do the number of major subjects and qualifications being offered. At the same time the career choices and destinations of our graduates are becoming more and more diverse.

An increasing range of post-graduate qualifications are available, allowing greater specialisation and honing skills for targeted career outcomes.