Professor Sir Paul Callaghan of Wellington was one of New Zealand’s most high profile and respected scientists. He passed away in Wellington on March 24 2012 after a battle with colon cancer.


Sir Paul showed outstanding leadership for over 30 years as a scientist, a teacher, a science administrator and communicator.

Sir Paul was a world leading scientist in the fields of nanotechnology* and magnetic resonance. His work put him and New Zealand on the international stage and his mantelpiece features an array of honours for his endeavours, including a Knighthood for services to science and NZ’s highest scientific honour, the Rutherford Medal.

As a proponent of bringing science to the people of New Zealand Sir Paul left no stone unturned to achieve this. He appeared in radio, print, television, guest lecturers and other personal appearances simply trying to put forth science in a way that everyone can relate to. Of particular note is Sir Paul’s contribution to Te Reo Physics, a website that introduces the concepts of physics in Maori to secondary school students.

Sir Paul was a passionate advocate for addressing and finding ways to reverse the overseas ‘brain drain’. In his view, widening New Zealand’s economic growth engines could be achieved by using science and technology to create industry that is ‘world class and home grown’.

In recent years, he was at the forefront of connecting science and business. His 2009 book Wool to Weta challenges traditional economic thinking and advocates for the potential of science and technology entrepreneurship to diversify our economic success. He put forward his vision of a future New Zealand where the use of science, technology and intellectual property can provide economic prosperity for the entire country and free New Zealand from simply being a producer of biological commodities.

Sir Paul believed that if we are to attain economic diversification through these avenues New Zealand can reverse the brain drain and make our country the place young people choose to build their careers and raise their families while preserving our natural environment and enriching our communities and culture.

Despite battling an aggressive cancer Sir Paul was as committed as ever to his passion for science and his vision for New Zealand to literally become “the most beautiful, stimulating and exciting place to live and work in the world.”