Famous New Zealand Scientists and Inventors


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New Zealand Nobel Laureates

Ernest Rutherford (1871 - 1937), chemist and physicist: winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements (radioactivity), and the chemistry of radioactive substances. He also discovered the concept of radioactive half-life and proved that radioactivity involved the transmutation of one chemical element to another. But Rutherford is most famous for the Gold foil experiment, carried out under his direction, demonstrating for the first time the existence of the atomic nucleus.

Maurice Wilkins (1916 - 2004), molecular biologist: shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine for his part in elucidating the structure of DNA with Francis Crick and James Watson.
Alan MacDiarmid (1927 - 2007), chemist: co-winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of conductive polymers - plastic materials that conduct electricity.

New Zealand Scientists and Inventors

Bruce Biggs (1921 - 2000), linguist: first academic to teach the Maori language at a New Zealand university, he taught and trained a whole generation of Maori academics.

Leonard Cockayne (1855 - 1934) is regarded as New Zealand's greatest botanist and a founder of modern science in New Zealand.

Leslie Comrie (1893 - 1950), astronomer and a computer pioneer.

G. H. Cunningham (1892 - 1962): the first New Zealand-based mycologist (the study of fungi) and plant pathologist.

Charlie Douglas (1840 - 1916), explorer and surveyor: extensive explorations of the West Coast Region of New Zealand and his work for the New Zealand Survey Department. Charlie Douglas was awarded the Royal Geographical Society Gill Memorial Prize in 1897.

Ben Gascoigne (1915 - 2010), New Zealand-born Australian optical astronomer and expert in photometry: played a leading role in the design and commissioning of Australia's largest optical telescope, one of the world's most important astronomical facilities.

Eric John Godley (1919 - 2010), botanist and biographer: long-running series in the popular magazine New Zealand Gardener and his "Biographical notes" series that ran in the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter which is the prime resource on the lives of many New Zealand botanists.

Eric Grinstead (1921 - ), sinologist and Tangutologist: best known for his analysis of the Tangut script (a writing system, used for writing the extinct Tangut language - an ancient Tibeto-Burman language).

Bill Hamilton (1899 - 1978): developed the modern jetboat.

Vaughan Jones (1952 - ), mathematician: awarded Fields Medal

Roy Patrick Kerr (1934 - ), mathematician: discovered the Kerr vacuum, an exact solution to the Einstein field equations of general relativity.

Alan Kirton (1933 - 2001), agricultural scientist: worldwide authority on the growth, development and meat quality of farm animals.

Patrick Marshall (1869 - 1950), English born geologist who lived in New Zealand: first used the term andesite line (the most significant regional geologic distinction line in the Pacific Ocean basin) in 1912.

Don Merton (1939 - 2011), conservationist: best known for saving the black robin from extinction. He also discovered the lek breeding system of the kakapo.

John Money (1921 - 2006), psychologist and sexologist: specialized in sexual identity and biology of gender; aroused controversy due to his work with the sex-reassignment of David Reimer.

Colin Murdoch (1929 - 2008), pharmacist and veterinarian: invented the tranquilliser gun, the disposable hypodermic syringe and the child-proof medicine container.

Richard Pearse (1877 - 1953), inventor: who performed pioneering experiments in aviation.

William Pickering (1910 - 2004), rocket scientist: central figure and pioneer of NASA space exploration.

Emily Stevens (1900 - 1967), one of the world's leading iris hybridisers: famous for creating the "Pinnacle" iris and others.

Beatrice Tinsley (1941 - 1981), astronomer and cosmologist: fundamental contributions to the astronomical understanding of how galaxies evolve with time.

Robert Webster (1932 - ), virologist: discovered the link between human flu and bird flu.


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