Sir Paul Callaghan’s Work Continues

Sir Paul Callaghan’s Work Continues


The MacDiarmid Institute, the Royal Society of New Zealand, Victoria University of Wellington, and Te Aitanga a Hauiti and the people of Tolaga Bay.

The Transit of Venus forum was founded by Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, who passed away in March this year.  The Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, is now taking the forum forward, together with Sir Paul’s colleagues and partners in the project. 

Sir Peter says that the Transit of Venus project was started by Sir Paul soon after he became ill in 2008. “He set about it with a great sense of urgency – there was so much he still wanted to do. The project is the culmination of his drive for scientific, evidence-based decisions in all areas of the economy, and to make this country a place where talent wants to live.  Sir Paul chose to make his career here, proving that you could have an international science career while living in New Zealand.  

“Sir Paul really loved this country and strongly believed that our young people ought to be able to make their futures here – and not just in the main cities.  He advocated high tech industries that would not harm the environment, and would improve prosperity for all.   He wanted Māori people to fully share that prosperity, and start taking a lead in the way we think about our natural heritage. The challenge of the forum is to be innovative in seeing how science and scholarship can take New Zealand forward economically, socially and environmentally” 

The line-up of over 30 speakers includes Dr Craig Nevill-Manning, Derek Handley, Sir Ray Avery, Sir Peter Gluckman, Dame Anne Salmond, Dr Gareth Morgan, Ian McCrae, Professor Shaun Hendy, Ian Taylor, Dr David Skilling, Dr Caroline Saunders, Dr Apirana Mahuika, Al Morrison, Dr Stephen Goldson, Don Huse, Dr Wayne Ngata, Peter Townsend, and Rick Boven.   The full programme is now on the website.

Sir Paul’s colleagues and partners in the project, Professors Bill Manhire, Charles Daugherty, David Bibby, Lydia Wevers, Kate McGrath, Shaun Hendy and Dr Di McCarthy, say that they have come together to continue his last inspired project, one that will begin and not end with the Forum in Gisborne.

“He so hoped to be there, and worked on the Project until the end.  He very nearly made it.  The Forum, and what follows, will be part of Paul’s legacy.      

“We look forward to celebrating our dual heritage and planning our shared future with optimism, imagination, and scientific realism.”

Call for registrations

Sir Paul invited a number of organizations to nominate people to attend the Forum, to ensure wide and balanced representation. The final 50 or so places are now open to all-comers. If you are interested in attending, please click here.

More information

The Forum encompasses the celebration event in Tolaga Bay on the day of the Transit of Venus, 6 June.  Delegates will be joined there by hundreds of local people and a number of international guests.  The symbolic connection between the Forum, the Transit of Venus, and the people of Tolaga Bay is explained by Sir Paul here.

Associated Transit of Venus projects include:

  • a documentary by Roger, Shirley and Dylan Horrocks
  • a parallel series of talks and panel discussions by Radio NZ National (chaired by Kim Hill)
  • POUNAMU, an on-line game to involve all New Zealanders in the Forum conversations
  • a Sustainability Plan for Uawanui (Tolaga Bay)
  • a new book on science and economics by Sir Paul Callaghan and Professor Shaun Hendy
  • Third International Starlight Conference at Lake Tekapo (10-13 June)
  • Dark Sky Exhibition of sci-art Transit and other astrophotography at the Adam Art Gallery (opened 1 May, closes 8 July)

For more information: 210 0997) or Sophie Prebble 470 5770)