Memorial for Sir Paul Callaghan, 1947–2012

Memorial for Sir Paul Callaghan, 1947–2012

Sir Paul Callaghan

Kua waipuketia te awa o Whanganui. Kua mahue pani te motu i te hinganga o tēnei tōtara haemata e te ringa kaha o aituā. Moe mai rā e te mata punenga. Nāu, nā te ihu atamai, nā te kanohi hōmiromiro te pūtaiao i āta rangahau kia mārama ai tō tatou ao. He toki pāngarau, he mātanga ahupūngao, he rangatira, he tāne, he pāpā e kore e warewaretia. Ko te motu nui tonu e tangi nei.

The waters of the mighty Whanganui River are in flood. A favourite son of the nation has fallen. Through science, you made a difference to the world. A mathematician, a physicist, a leader, a man, a father – you will not be forgotten.

Sir Paul Callaghan was a world-class scientist, an inspirational teacher and leader, and a passionate advocate for a better New Zealand. He will be remembered for his energy and enthusiasm and his commitment to making science accessible to all.

Sir Paul was born and brought up in Whanganui, where he discovered an early passion for science. He excelled in maths and physics at Victoria University, winning a scholarship to study low-temperature physics at Oxford University in England.

Sir Paul returned to New Zealand in 1974 to lecture in the Physics Department at Massey University. He worked there for 27 years, eventually heading the department.

Sir Paul became a world-leading scientist in the fields of nanotechnology and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). One of his most significant scientific contributions was using NMR to measure brine content in Antarctic sea ice, helping scientists better understand the global climate. He subsequently established a company, Magritek Ltd, to commercialise the NMR technology he had developed – one of his proudest achievements.

In 2001, Sir Paul moved to Victoria University to spearhead the establishment of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. He was the institute’s inaugural director.

A passionate believer in collaborative science, Sir Paul mentored many of New Zealand’s young scientists and provided leadership to the scientific community.

Over the course of his career, Sir Paul was awarded many scientific and civic honours, including the prestigious Rutherford Medal and the Blake Medal for leadership. In 2006, he was made a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and, with the restoration of traditional honours, was knighted in 2009.

As New Zealander of the Year in 2011, Sir Paul promoted his vision for the country on a hugely successful speaking tour. He believed that New Zealand could become a better and more prosperous place by connecting science and business.

In the last years of his life, as he battled aggressive cancer, Sir Paul spoke openly about his experiences. He died in Wellington on 24 March. He is survived by his wife, Miang, and a son and daughter.

‘I found it is the most exciting and satisfying professional life one can have, to do the work one loves, to lead teams of highly talented young people, to make discoveries of permanent value, to transcend nation, race, culture, and political perspectives in a truly international endeavour.’
Sir Paul Callaghan

If you wish to be part of his funeral ceremony, you can do so via a webcast. The webcast for the funeral is:, and this will be live from 12 or 12.30pm, on Wednesday 28 March.  It will be broadcast in NZ standard time.

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