Scientists (New Zealand)

Where can I find information about New Zealand scientists?

Entry last updated: 06/03/19


New Zealand has many great scientists that work in a lot of different areas of science. Their research and discoveries have a big effect on our world. In this entry we will show you how to find information about their scientific study, their lives, and other important information. We will also mention being a scientist as a career.

Well known scientists

Here is a list of some well known New Zealand scientists but there are many more. You will find information about these and other scientists by searching the helpful websites further on in this entry.

Muriel Bell (1898 - 1974) - Nutritionist

Paul Callaghan (1947 - 2012) - Physicist

Kathleen Curtis (1892 - 1994) - Mycologist

Alan G. MacDiarmid (1927 - 2007) - Chemist

Steve O'Shea (1965 - ) - Marine Biologist

Sir William H. Pickering (1910 - 2004) - Rocket Scientist

Thomas Athol Rafter (1913 - 1996) - Nuclear Chemist

Ernest Rutherford (1871 - 1937) - Physicist

Beatrice M. Tinsley (1941 - 1981) - Astronomer and Cosmologist

Ingrid Visser (1966 - ) - Marine Biologist

Thomas William Walker (1916 - 2010) - Soil Scientist

Joan Wiffen (1922 - 2009) - Paleontologist

Maurice Wilkins (1916 - 2004) Physicist and Molecular Biologist


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • To find information about a specific historic scientist you can search the People tab by last name eg Ernest Rutherford.
  • You can also use keywords in the search bar (eg Maurice Wilkins) to find information related to a particular scientist.
Tips: Search words, or keywords, are the most important words in our question. Usually it’s better to leave out small words like ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘of’ and just choose the main ones, e.g [Maurice Wilkins]. We can always change our keywords or add more if we need to.

Science Learning Hub

Science Learning Hub is a great website created by University of Waikato and Curious Minds (NZ) that has articles about scientists.

Tips: Websites that have .org or .net in the address can have good information, but you need to assess how reliable it is. Check the About us link on the website, if you can find one. That can tell you what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Te Ara

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we scroll down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • To find information about a specific historic scientist go to the A-Z index under the Biographies tab.
  • You can also use search for the scientist by using the search bar.
Tips: Another place to look is Wikipedia which has great coverage of many topics, including [insert topic here]. But you need to be aware that this information is contributed by lots of different people. If you are using this site, it always pays to check the information against that on other sites or in books from the library.

Science in Context

This database is part of the EPIC collection. EPIC is a collection of online resources that have been put together especially for New Zealand school students. Science in Context has good articles and biographies on notable New Zealand scientists as well as information on many scientific topics.

  • Search for your scientist in the search box or look through the biographies further down the page.
Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.


Another place to look is Wikipedia which has great coverage of many topics, including New Zealand Scientists. You can browse a list of scientists or do a keyword search using the scientist's name.

Tips: You need to be aware that this information is contributed by lots of different people. It always pays to check the information you find against other sites or books from the library. You can also check the About link to find out what the organisation’s mission and values are.

Science as a career

Becoming a scientist takes dedication and patience. There are many different scientific fields to work including some listed below. There are also some websites about science related careers to get you started.

Chemist: studies the behaviour of chemicals.

Forensic Scientist: studies forensic data to use in investigating crimes.

Geologist: studies the structure and history of the Earth.

Marine Biologist: studies plants and animals under the sea.

Meteorologist: studies the atmosphere to understand the weather.

Microbiologist: studies small organisms like bacteria and viruses.

Zoologist: studies animals.


CareersNZ is the best place to look for information about jobs and careers in New Zealand.

  • Use the search bar to enter the name of the job or career you want to research eg Scientist.
  • Choose from the results eg Forensic Scientist.
  • To search for courses related to science, select the Courses link on the homepage.
Tips: We like sites like this because they’re reliable. You can tell because of their web address – they have either .govt or .ac, meaning they are from government or educational organisations. They’re also New Zealand sites, so relevant for us.

Science New Zealand

This is the careers site for seven New Zealand science research organisations. These organisations are owned by the New Zealand Government to carry out excellent science relevant to New Zealand.

  • Look under the section called Crown Research Institutes and click on the links to find more information about each organisation e.g GNS Science.


Your local public library or school will have many books about famous New Zealand scientists. It is a good idea to search individual scientists by name to find biographies.

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