Brian Shorland: Doyen of New Zealand Science, by Joan Cameron.
A fascinating new biography has just been published, on the life of Brian Shorland, one of New Zealand’s most illustrious scientists and a real ‘character’. The author Joan Cameron is a chemist who knew Brian Shorland for many years. Her knowledge of the science allows her to write with clarity and authority on Shorland’s contributions and her personal knowledge of the man allows her to paint a detailed picture of his personality.
The Shorland Medal of the NZAS is awarded for a lifetime of fundamental or applied research. Naming the award in honour of Shorland is very appropriate since, as described in the new biography, Brian Shorland was an extremely focused and driven researcher who dedicated his whole life to science. Shorland was a pioneer of the biochemistry of fats and developed many applications for the benefit of animal and human health and welfare. As described by author Joan Cameron, Shorland was focused to the point of obsession and could easily have been described as a ‘mad scientist’. While he made many significant breakthroughs in biochemistry and won many national and international awards, his total absorption in scientific research led to a marked neglect of his family, and I suspect an indifference to most human relationships. He was a true eccentric, brilliant in the laboratory but probably very difficult to live with. This new biography paints an engrossing and compelling picture of a giant of New Zealand science.
The book is published by the New Zealand Association of Scientists and was edited and produced with significant support from the NZAS. Brian Shorland was a member of NZAS from its earliest days and served on its Council for many years, including as President. NZAS is very pleased to see this book in print, adding as it does to the rather sparse literature on New Zealand intellectual history. A full review will be forthcoming in the New Zealand Science Review.