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A former long-serving chairman of the politics department, he was most well known internationally for his research involving the ‘Flynn effect’, a substantial and long-sustained rise in intelligence test scores from about 1930 to the present.
Born in the United States in 1934, he spent 1967-2017 at the university, including three decades as head of the politics department.
He also had a raft of books published on a range of topics, from intelligence to American foreign policy.
Prof Flynn received the university’s Medal for Distinguished Career Research, and was an Otago honorary doctorate of science.
He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, and a recipient of its Aronui Medal.
University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne praised his impact on the university and the wider world.
"We feel the loss of Professor Flynn very keenly.
"He was a legendary teacher and a giant amongst scholars", she said.
"His work was highly cited across a number of disciplines, his research made a real difference in the world, and his ideas had an immense reach, from high school classrooms to the frontiers of social science research.
"He was an iconic figure around our campus and there will never be another like him.”
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins also honoured Prof Flynn as "an absolute giant of teaching, researching, campaigning and both university and civic life, he will be missed."