Professor Sir Paul Callaghan: Leading physicist

 

Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, who died on 24 March at the age of 64 after a long battle with cancer of the colon, was a leading New Zealand scientist who gained international recognition for his work in molecular physics.

"New Zealand has suffered a tremendous loss," Sir Peter Gluckman, chief science adviser to the country's Prime Minister John Key, said. "Paul has been our most distinguished public scientist and in the world of molecular physics has been a giant."

Callaghan, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, was best known for his work with magnetic resonance, which has practical applications in many fields, from health care to industrial production. He was also known for his work on nanoscience, which involves studying properties of substances at the scale of the individual atom. He won numerous honours, and was elected a Fellow to the Royal Society of London. In 2009, he was knighted and in 2011 was named New Zealander of the Year.

An outspoken public intellectual, Callaghan argued in favour of commercialising science. In 2004, he founded Magritek, a Wellington-based company that used magnetic resonance imaging and nuclear magnetic resonance for industrial and research applications.

Callaghan made science accessible, explaining it in a straightforward and entertaining way, using radio, books and public lectures to promote his view that New Zealand could use science to become a wealthier and better place. The Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said Callaghan earned the respect of everyone, even those who disagreed with him: "His knowledge and willingness to teach others was an inspiration to not only the science community, but New Zealand as a whole. He brought a unique combination of brilliance, integrity and courage to public debate."

Callaghan began his studies at Wellington's Victoria University, where he completed a degree in physics before continuing at Oxford, where he earned a DPhil working in low temperature physics. Returning to New Zealand in 1974, he took up a lecturing position at Massey University, where he began researching the applications of magnetic resonance to the study of soft matter. He was made Professor of Physics in 1984, and Alan MacDiarmid Professor of Physical Sciences in 2001. The following year, as founding director, he helped establish the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

In 2007 one of his radio series appeared in book form, As Far as We Know: Conversations about Science, Life and the Universe. A 2009 book, Wool to Weta: Transforming New Zealand's Culture and Economy, deals with the potential for science and technology entrepreneurialism to diversify New Zealand's economy. He also presented the documentary Beyond the Farm and the Themepark, which deals with the same issues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Recruitment Genius: Inside Sales Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Join a worldwide leader in data-driven marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Adviser - Sales and Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a desire to help sm...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Support - Helpdesk Analyst

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a customer focu...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn