Chemist awarded Marsden Medal

Brian Robinson
Brian Robinson
University of Otago senior scientist Emeritus Prof Brian Robinson has been awarded a Marsden Medal by the New Zealand Association of Scientists.

The medal recognises a lifetime of "outstanding service to the cause or profession of science".

Prof Robinson, a former head of the Otago chemistry department, had been "a significant figure in New Zealand science" for more than 40 years, the medal citation noted.

Based at the department, he had also been involved in a wide range of science-related activities at national and international level.

Otago University sciences pro-vice-chancellor Prof Keith Hunter said Prof Robinson's academic science was "first class", but he was also able to move across into commercially related matters in a way that was "comparatively rare, especially in New Zealand".

And Prof Robinson continued to undertake innovative scientific work, including helping develop a post-surgical protective gel for patients, through a New Economy Research Fund grant.

Widely influential, he had helped undertake several tertiary quality audit assessments, including overseas, and had contributed strongly to the community, including through advice to civil defence groups nationally on issues relating to hazardous chemicals, Prof Hunter said.

The award citation noted Prof Robinson had conducted "pioneering work in academic science administration" and had been involved in political education over hazardous materials.

His "wide-ranging and prolific" research activities had included co-authoring more than 150 research publications, and gaining several large external research grants.

He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1999 and had also been awarded Fellowships of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry, the Royal Society of Chemistry (London), and the Society of Perfumers and Flavourists (Geneva).

He was a "risk taker and farsighted researcher" whose research areas had varied quite widely from a core base of organometallic chemistry and included synthetic, mechanistic and structural elements.

Having long recognised the possibilities of linking academic science with commercial developments, he had started his own chemical company, Westchem Industries, in the 1980s.

His substantial involvement with Rotary was also recognised when he gained the Paul Harris Award in 2004.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz

 

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