Tribute: Sir Paul Callaghan

“Prosperity really derives from innovation, and innovation is the use of our creative potential to change the way in which we do things.” - Sir Paul Callaghan, July 2011.
New Zealand scientist Sir Paul Callaghan has passed away. He advocated using creative capacity and ability to innovate to get value out of our knowledge, without negative environmental impacts.

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Renowned New Zealand scientist Sir Paul Callaghan has passed away.

Sir Paul was passionate about how science and technology can impact on New Zealand’s economy in a positive way. He advocated using our creative capacity and ability to innovate to get a high value return out of our knowledge, without negative environmental impacts.

Sir Paul was a scientist, teacher and communicator who received scientific accolades and international recognition for his work in nano-technology and magnetic resonance. He was recognised as New Zealander of the Year in 2011.

The Prime Minister's chief science advisor Peter Gluckman released a statement today saying New Zealand has suffered a tremendous loss.

“He had a passion and integrity that made his contribution to bettering New Zealand science and innovation incomparable.”

The 64-year-old had been fighting bowel cancer. Gluckman said Sir Paul’s courage in telling the world about his battle with cancer was extraordinary, and even while he was terminally ill he was battling hard to promote a better New Zealand.

In the last decade, Sir Paul had become our most public scientist, writing and broadcasting widely, aiming to make science more accessible and projecting his conviction that New Zealand was not using its latent innovative capacity well enough.

In Sir Paul Callaghan's July 2011 address (video below) to creative entrepreneurs at Survive & Thrive in Auckland, he said in a globalised world countries have to make a living by playing to their strengths.

“Prosperity really derives from innovation, and innovation is the use of our creative potential to change the way in which we do things.”

He talked about why creative businesses develop and stay in NZ and what we need to get right about our country to grow the sector, including being receptive to whatever areas of talent emerge and the ‘value of what it is to be a New Zealander’.

“If I had a mission statement for New Zealand it would be just that. A place where talent can thrive because if we ensure we get that right, the creative people will want to live here, work here and export their capability to the world.”

In an interview on The Big Idea, Sir Paul talked about the use of arts to explain and explore science, his personal relationship to art, the role of creativity in his work, science as a cultural product and how boosting our creativity is key to growing our ‘smart’ industries in NZ.

“We need to discover what works for us, what gives us our global advantage. Find what is best in our society and nurture it. Find what we do badly and correct it. And most importantly of all, grow out of adolescence into adulthood. Avoid the self-serving myths, the phoney shallow game playing, the selective thinking that blights our ability to progress. Face up to our problems, solve them and move on. Then we can truly stand tall.”

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

24 Mar 2012

The Big Idea Editor Cathy Aronson is a journalist, photo journalist and digital editor.

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