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View recipients of the Rutherford Medal.

: 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 2023 Rutherford Medal was awarded to Linda Tuhiwai Te Rina Smith for world recognised scholarship in decolonising and Indigenous research methodologies that has transformed many disciplines and led to innovative research methodologies.

Previous recipients


Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Research Unit (The Dunedin Study) led by Richie Poulton with team members Murray Thomson, Terrie Moffitt and Avshalom Caspi, for insights into the human condition and resulting global impact on scientific theory, research, policy, and best-practice from the Dunedin Study.


Philippa Howden-Chapman and He Kāinga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme for groundbreaking research that has quantified the effects of housing interventions on occupants’ health and wellbeing, and informed legislation and policy.


Brian Boydliterature

Awarded for his exceptional contributions to literary studies. Brian has provided a new framework for studying arts, informed by evolutionary theory.


Jane Harding, neonatologist

Awarded 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, mathematician

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


Colin Wilson, volcanologist

Awarded 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, psychologist

Awarded 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, osteologist

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


Peter Schwerdtfeger, theoretical chemist and physicist

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


Anne Salmond, social scientist

Awarded 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, chemist

Awarded for her world-leading contributions to the synthesis of bioactive natural products and novel peptides with wide applications across the life sciences industry.


Christine Winterbourn, biochemist

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


Warren Tate, biochemist

Awarded for his outstanding achievements in molecular biology and molecular neuroscience.


Peter Hunter, computational bioengineer

Awarded for his revolutionary approach to modelling the human body.


David Parry, structural biophysicist

Awarded 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, neuroscientist

Awarded 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 (Ted) Baker, structural biologist

Awarded 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, physicist

Awarded 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, theoretical biologist

Awarded in recognition of his distinguished contributions in theoretical biology, molecular evolution, analysis of DNA information.


George Petersen, biochemist

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


Jeffrey Tallon, physicist

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


Peter Gluckman, biologist


Alan MacDiarmid, chemist, Nobel Prize winner


David Vere-Jones, statistician

Awarded 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 (Bill) Robinson, seismologist

Awarded 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, soil scientist

Awarded 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 (Bill) Denny, oncologist, and the Auckland Cancer Research Laboratory

Awarded 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, physicist

Awarded 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, mathematician

Awarded for his outstanding discoveries in the extra-terrestrial world of black holes.


Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) Group Award


Vaughan Jones, mathematician, Fields Medalist

Awarded for his international reputation in topology.