Scientist Peter Gluckman attains New Zealand’s highest honour

June 2, 2015 by Keren Cook
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Auckland-based Sir Peter Gluckman is the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor and has been named a Member of the Order of New Zealand.

Peter Gluckman

Peter Gluckman

It is the country’s highest award, and as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours and Gluckman joins the Order as the 18th current member. He sits alongside Helen Clark, Sir Murray Halberg and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Membership in the Order of New Zealand is limited to a maximum of 20 living people at one time.

In an interview with Michelle Hewitson for the New Zealand Herald in 2010 Gluckman says: “I have a cultural life, going to synagogue “aah, very occasionally”. He and his wife, Judy, “have a kosher home”. Gluckman says he is “not sure” if he believes in God. “I mean, it’s an interesting thing. Theology is not very important to most Jews. I’m a rationalist at heart.”

A self-professed “workaholic” Gluckman says he never had a career path in mind, originally training in Dunedin and Auckland as a pediatrician. But after two years as a doctor he pursued a career in research, which he said he had never looked back on.

He says he is proud to be accepted as a member, which adds to his knighthood and Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit 1997.

“I was very surprised. It’s humbling. It’s obviously very gratifying when your country recognises your contribution. You do your best and to get recognized is always nice,” says Gluckman.

His advice to younger aspiring scientists and doctors is to keep an open mind and pursue things they are interested in.

Gluckman says: “You can’t predict what’s going to happen. I’ve never been a person who’s planned their life. I’m a person who enjoys life, who enjoys what I do in life. You’ve got to take the opportunities and make your own luck.”

Gluckman calls New Zealand his home despite describing himself as an internationalist.

“Having seen what New Zealand is and what it can be is hugely inspiring. It has an enormous potential to be a smart little country. We have very good medical scientists, we often knock everything but quite frankly we do very well,” he says.

Gluckman says he grew up in an “intellectual home” and he liked to read books and think about the world around him – particularly nature.

Over the years Gluckman has made significant scientific contributions. He has researched the growth of a fetus and early development and co-invented cooling caps that help prevent brain damage in babies who’ve just undergone a bruising birth. He has also worked on a variety of health issues including child obesity, heart disease, neurological diseases and diabetes.

In recent years, he’s held more public roles and Gluckman plans to continue working on what he does best – research.

Gluckman says he “plans to keep on enjoying myself, doing work. I guess the next part of my career will be trying to transmit some of that knowledge instilled to the next generation that follows.”






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