The New Zealand Institute of Physics (NZIP) awarded the Rutherford Trophy to retired UC physicist Dr John Campbell at its biennial conference in July.
The Rutherford Trophy was established by Dr Campbell in 1973 to stimulate the development and improvement of simple lecture and laboratory demonstrations of physical principals. It has been awarded only 14 times.
In awarding the Trophy to Dr Campbell, the NZIP recognised his significant contribution to promoting physics demonstrations in classrooms at both the secondary and tertiary levels and as a way to improve the engagement of the public in science.
Of significant note are the fire walks Dr Campbell has organised over many years and the engaging talks on the science of fire walking that he has presented. His Physics Demonstration dvd, which was first made available to all physics teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2006, includes a wide array of clever, but simple physics demonstrations. The dvd allows teachers scope to develop the demonstrations in their own laboratories, but also serves as a standalone demonstration tool for those situations where the setup of the demonstration is too difficult in the local environment.
Dr Campbell is the author of Rutherford Scientist Supreme, Rutherford’s Ancestors, producer of the documentary Rutherford and initiator and organiser of the ‘Ask-A-Scientist’ programme. He also manages the website www.rutherford.org.nz.
In accepting the Trophy, Dr Campbell reiterated his lifelong philosophy:
“The most important people to physics are the school teachers, especially secondary, who day-in, year-out, appear before their classes, not so much to teach physics, but to communicate a love of physics. I urge my academic colleagues to strongly support this valuable resource.”
Dr Campbell was unable to attend the NZIP conference as he was in England at the time, so he was presented with the Trophy by Professor David Wiltshire, the incoming President of the NZIP, at a special morning tea last Friday, prior to Dr Campbell giving the Physics Department seminar on ‘Rocketman – The story of William H. Pickering.’