Professor Sir Paul Callaghan (1947-2012)

Professor Sir Paul Callaghan was one of New Zealand's best known and highly respected scientists, both within the scientific community and among the wider population. He showed outstanding leadership for over 30 years as a scientist, a teacher, a science administrator and communicator.

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Sir Paul was the founding Director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology at Victoria University of Wellington and was also the Alan MacDiarmid Professor in Physical Sciences in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at the University. He held both Doctor of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Oxford University and was a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Royal Society of London. Sir Paul was a leader in science and science education in New Zealand and internationally. He had a significant role in leading the establishment of New Zealand's performance based research funding system for tertiary institutions. He also led the development of science communication to the wider public and made it an almost personal crusade to de-mystify science and convey the relevance and excitement of science for all of society.

Sir Paul received numerous awards for his research and contribution to science. In 2004, he was the first scientist outside of Europe to receive the prestigious Ampere Prize for his research in magnetic resonance. In November 2005 he received, from the Royal Society of New Zealand, our nation's highest scientific honour, The Rutherford Medal. In 2006 he was named as a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. As a person, Sir Paul had a thirst for the new and unexplored. He was a passionate man, blessed with unending drive and curiosity and avidly took on new challenges.

In August 2009, Professor Sir Paul Callaghan received the accolade of knighthood from the Governor-General and was redesignated as a Knight Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In 2011, Sir Paul was named Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

Sir Peter epitomised Kiwi leadership and it was an honour to receive the medal. New Zealand has great leaders - people need to realise you can be a world class leader right here on our shores. ”

Professor Sir Paul Callaghan

A tribute from The Sir Peter Blake Trust Selection Panel

The Sir Peter Blake Trust awarded Sir Paul Callaghan their highest award for Leadership in 2007. His extraordinary talent in science and the communication of its relevance to a public audience has been extolled by many. His unique ability to convey his knowledge and his values made him one of New Zealand's great leaders.

He could communicate complex technical matters in a way that others who lacked specialist skill could follow. He was able to inspire and encourage others by conveying, in simple terms, the path that New Zealand needs to follow to progress. It was the leadership he embraced in making this country "the place where talent wants to be".

The Trust was grateful for the wisdom he brought to the table and in subsequent years as a member of the Trust Selection Panel he helped us identify and publicly recognise those that, through leadership, can advance the success of our country. Sir Paul was truly a marvellous New Zealand leader.