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View recipients of the Rutherford Medal.

Note. The Rutherford Medal was previously known as the New Zealand Science and Technology Gold Medal and was renamed in 2000. All previous Gold Medals are now referred to as the Rutherford Medal.

Latest recipient

The 2020 Rutherford Medal was awarded to Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd from the University of Auckland for his exceptional contributions to literary studies. Brian has provided a new framework for studying arts, informed by evolutionary theory.

Previous recipients


Distinguished Professor Jane Elizabeth Harding for her pre-eminent work determining the causes and long-term consequences of interventions around the time of birth, leading to new therapies and understandings that have improved outcomes for mothers and babies around the world


Rod Downey for his pre-eminent revolutionary research into computability, including development of the theory of parameterised complexity and the algorithmic study of randomness.


Colin Wilson for his research showing how large volcanoes behave before and during explosive eruptions, including those that created Lake Taupo, expanding our understanding of volcanoes and the hazards they pose


Michael Corballis for foundational research on the nature and evolution of the human mind, including cerebral asymmetries, handedness, mental imagery, language, and mental time travel


Ian Reid for his seminal contributions to the understanding and treatment of metabolic bone diseases such as osteoporosis and Paget’s Disease


Peter Schwerdtfeger for his world-leading contribution to fundamental aspects of chemical and physical phenomena in atoms, molecules and condensed matter


Anne Salmond for her eminent work on Māori social structures and interactions with the European world, and on European exploration and engagement in the Pacific


Margaret Brimble for her world-leading contributions to the synthesis of bioactive natural products, including a new drug for traumatic brain injury funded by the US army.


Christine Winterbourn for her outstanding achievements and discoveries in free radical biology which have established her as a leading world authority in this field


Warren Tate for his outstanding achievements in molecular biology and molecular neuroscience


Peter Hunter for his revolutionary approach to modelling the human body


David Parry for his world-leading research on fibrous proteins which has led to major advances in understanding the structure of hair and the working of muscles and connective tissue


Richard Faull for his ground-breaking work in understanding the human brain. He has a passion and enthusiasm to ensure that his research is world class and that it engages and benefits the whole community


Edward Baker for his internationally recognised and  pioneering work in  structural biology, and as a key player in the development of a vibrant biotechnology culture in New Zealand


Paul Callaghan for world-leading research in development of new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) methods that have significant impacts in physics, chemistry, biology and medicine


David Penny, in recognition of his distinguished contributions in theoretical biology, molecular evolution, analysis of DNA information


George Petersen for his exceptional contribution in pioneering methods for sequencing DNA and nurturing the development of DNA research in New Zealand


Jeffrey Tallon for his wide-ranging internationally recognised achievements in the discovery, design, physical characterisation, understanding and application of high-temperature superconductors


Peter Gluckman


Alan MacDiarmid


David Vere-Jones for his outstanding contributions to research and education in probability, statistics and the mathematical sciences, and for services to the statistical and mathematical communities both within New Zealand and internationally


William Robinson for his internationally recognised research in Materials Science leading to the development of seismic isolation dampers, and through them for his contribution to mitigating hazards to human life and construction


Thomas (John) Walker for his internationally recognised and pioneering research in soil science, and for his substantial contribution to public awareness, knowledge and understanding of the behaviour of soils


No award


William Denny, and the Auckland Cancer Research Laboratory, for sustained innovation in the development of new anticancer drugs, and the formation in Auckland of a leading international academic centre in anticancer drug development, to provide opportunities for research-based teaching and student training


Ian Axford for his excellent contribution to fundamental research which has led to a deeper understanding of the nature of planetary magnetospheres, comets, interplanetary space, the behaviour of interstellar gas and the origin of cosmic rays


Roy Kerr for his outstanding discoveries in the extra-terrestrial world of black holes


DSIR Group Award


Vaughan Jones for his international reputation in topology