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The Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research (BTI) is a research and education organization devoted to plant science currently located on the campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. A Board of Directors, half appointed by Cornell, governs this independent institution addressing plant research.

BTI Main Entrance, Cornell University campus



William Boyce Thompson, who acquired wealth in the copper mining industry, visited Russia in 1917 where he saw the effects of hunger on its inhabitants. This trip persuaded Thompson of the importance of ensuring food supply for the world population, and in 1920, he decided to establish the Institute for Plant Research. He meant the Institute to be a vehicle to further the understanding of plants, to use this understanding for improving world food supply, but also to promote nature conservation. [1] [2]

Thompson named the institute in honor of his parents, Anne Boyce Thompson and William Thompson, and endowed it with $10 million. Subsequently, the BTI has been funded by government support and revenues from the licensing of institute patents. Thompson played an active role in the early years of BTI and sought to encourage commercial development of the institute's research results. Because Thompson sought his active role, rather than locate BTI on the campus of an existing university, in 1924, Thompson built the initial laboratories across the street from his country estate Alder Manor, in Yonkers, New York.[3]

BTI remained on its Yonkers campus until the 1970s when Yonkers property taxes and urban pollution posed major problems. Managing Director George L. McNew favored an affiliation with a major research university, and soon a bidding war broke out between Oregon State University and Cornell University to attract BTI. The New York State Legislature wanted to keep BTI in New York and appropriated $8.5 million for construction of facilities on the Cornell campus if BTI agreed to stay.[4] Oregon also appropriated funds as a relocation incentive. Ultimately, it was decided that affiliation with Cornell offered the most varied research opportunities.

In 1978 a new 116,854 sq ft (10,856.1 m2) building designed by Ulrich Franzen was built next to the Cornell Veterinary School, and the move was made.[5] Although affiliated with Cornell, the institute maintains its independence with a separate endowment, Board of Directors, business office, and employee benefits program. Close ties between BTI and Cornell foster many collaborative relationships that are beneficial to both institutions.[6]

The old BTI campus in Yonkers was leased out and actively used as late as 1997, and was sold to the City of Yonkers Board of Education in 1999. Its fate is now being litigated as to whether it will be redeveloped as low-income housing or commercial purposes.[7]


BTI has 12 faculty investigators conducting plant research and training graduate students and post doctoral fellows. The Scientist magazine survey of post doctoral fellows ranked BTI the 12th best place to work.[8] For example, BTI is part of the consortium that is sequencing the tomato genome and creating a database of genomic sequences and information on the tomato and related plants.[9]

BTI's library is open to the general public, and its Plant Cell Imaging Center is available to researchers from Cornell University or SUNY Cortland.[10]

Each summer, BTI's 10-week Plant Genome Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program offers undergraduates selected nationally to conduct individual research.

BTI also leads after-school science enrichment programs at local grade schools.


  1. ^ "History Overview". Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  2. ^ "History Overview". Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  3. ^ Hudson Valley Ruins: Alder Manor by Rob Yasinsac,
  4. ^ Cliness, Francis (July 26, 1973). "Session Starts in Albany With Expanded Agenda (subsscription required)". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  5. ^ Boyce Thompson Institute - Facility Information,
  6. ^
  7. ^ Hudson Valley Ruins: Boyce Thompson Institute by Rob Yasinsac,
  8. ^ The Scientist: Postdocs Blossom at Plant Science Centers,
  9. ^ Tomato genome project gets $1.8M,
  10. ^ "Facilities & Services". Retrieved 2010-02-10. 

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