The science community is today mourning the loss of one of its greatest members.
Professor Sir Paul Callaghan passed away in Wellington on Saturday after a battle with cancer, aged just 64.
Ministry of Science and Innovation chief executive Murray Bain said Sir Paul will be sadly missed.
“We have not only lost a great scientist, but a great New Zealander. Sir Paul’s formidable intellect and work ethic saw him recognised as a world authority in his field. He deserved every accolade which came his way, and will be remembered as a generous and decent person, as well as an outstanding academic.”
A native of Whanganui, Paul Callaghan took his first degree in physics at the Victoria University of Wellington and subsequently earned a DPhil degree at the University of Oxford, working in low temperature physics. This academic start led to an unparalleled science career spanning nearly forty years.
“Perhaps most importantly, he believed scientists don’t exist in isolation. He was always open to sharing his knowledge and insights, and was a highly-respected teacher and leader. His contribution to science in New Zealand cannot be overstated.”
Despite battling an aggressive cancer, Sir Paul was still as committed as ever to his passion for science and his vision for New Zealand to become what he called “the most beautiful, stimulating and exciting place to live and work in the world.”
“One of his passions was bringing science to the people, and he left no stone unturned in achieving this. He appeared on radio and television, in print, delivered guest lectures and made other personal appearances talking about science in a way that everyone could relate to,” said Mr Bain.
Sir Paul also strongly believed in the commercialisation of science, which led to him founding Magritek, a Wellington-based company at the cutting edge of MRI and NMR technology.
Even as his illness reached critical stages, Sir Paul was still committed to the greater good. He undertook a course of intensive Vitamin C dosages in conjunction with a range of herbal treatments, as a scientific experiment to see whether this approach would make a difference.
Mr Bain said Sir Paul’s approach spoke volumes about the man. “When his treatment proved to be ineffective, he documented the methods and results so others could learn from his experience. Right to the end, he was trying to advance scientific knowledge and help others.”
Sir Paul is survived by his wife Miang and two children.
HONOURS AND ACHIEVEMENTS
DPhil (Physics) University of Oxford (1974)
Massey University Senior Lecturer, Physics (1974-1984)
Massey University Professor of Physics (1984-2001)
DSc University of Oxford (1995)
Fellow of the Royal Society of London, (2001), Alan MacDiarmid Professor of Physical Sciences, Victoria University (2001-2012)
President, Academy Council, Royal Society of New Zealand (2001-03)
Founding Director of MacDiarmid Institute (2002-2012)
Ampere Prize for Research into Magnetic Resonance (2004)
Rutherford Medal (2005)
Principle Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (2006)
KEA/NZTE World Class New Zealander Award (2007)
James Cook Research Fellow (2008)
Knight of the Realm of New Zealand (2009)
Günther Laukien Prize for Magnetic Resonance, Prime Minister's Science Prize – shared with his research team (2010)
Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year, Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge (2011)
Over 240 articles in scientific journals worldwide
Principles of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (1994)
As Far as We Know: Conversations about Science, Life and the Universe (2007, based on his radio series of the same name)
Beyond the Farm and the Theme Park (documentary, 2007)
Wool to Weta: Transforming New Zealand's Culture and Economy (2009)
Translational Dynamics and Magnetic Resonance (2011)