Defiance dried milk powder building

Our history

The history of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) can be traced back to colonial times, and in fact, a New Zealander played a significant role in the creation of the company we know today.

The ‘Glaxo’ in the company name has its origins in Wellington, where local entrepreneur Joseph Nathan established a trading company (Joseph Nathan and Co) in 1873. This company was a forerunner to the Glaxo’s milk powder drying operation at Bunnythorpe, Manawatu.

The leading global research and manufacturing organisation that GSK is today is a result of many company mergers, along with the hard work of Nobel Prize-winning researchers, business luminaries, and social visionaries from innovative companies like Allen & Hanbury’s, Burroughs Wellcome, Beecham Laboratories, and Smith-Kline & French.

Here is a short timeline outlining key moments in GSK’s history:

Joseph Nathan 1873


GSK heritage companies begin operation in New Zealand.
Joseph Nathan, who left the UK to seek new business opportunities 20 years before, establishes a general trading company at Wellington in New Zealand – Joseph Nathan and Co; the foundation for the Glaxo company later formed.

Burroughs Wellcome and Company Pepsin Tabloids ad


Burroughs Wellcome and Company is established

Cabinet and globe 1891


Smith, Kline and Company acquires French, Richards and Company

Glaxo billboard 1906


The ‘Glaxo’ trademark is registered.
Realising the dried milk powder being sold as infant food needed a more appealing name than ‘Defiance’, the Nathan directors set about coming up with a new name for the New Zealand product. They initially settled on Lacto, but this was rejected because similar names were already registered. Instead, the name Glaxo was registered in October 1906.

Ventolin inhaler ad


Ventolin is launched.
Glaxo launches Ventolin as a treatment for asthma, marketed under the Allen & Hanbury’s name.

Scientist in a lab in 1972


Amoxicillin discovered.
Scientists at Beecham Research Laboratories discover amoxicillin, and launch Amoxil, which becomes a widely-used antibiotic

Paper clippings and letters 1995


SmithKline Beckman and the Beecham Group merge to form SmithKline Beecham plc

Image of spring blossom


Glaxo and Wellcome merge to form Glaxo Wellcome

3D illustration of the molecule structure at the atomic level


Merger between Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham to form GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)

Illustration of New Zealand from space


New ‘Australasia’ region formed, consisting of GSK Australia and New Zealand

Anna Stove General Manager NZ


Anna Stove commences as General Manager, New Zealand.

Businessman handshake in the business district city


GSK acquires Novartis’s vaccines business (excluding influenza vaccines) and combines our Consumer Healthcare businesses

Image of Lizzie Champion


Lizzie Champion commences as General Manager, New Zealand.

Find out more about the international history of GSK at our global site