Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture Collection

Sharing science with the community since 1917.

Annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture

Sharing science with the community since 1917.

The Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture is a free annual community event hosted by Cawthron Institute to commemorate the legacy of Thomas Cawthron and to share science with the public.

Cawthron Institute was officially established in 1921 following a large bequest from Thomas Cawthron, an influential local businessman and philanthropist. His vision was that that science could contribute to the growth of a young New Zealand, and that vision still underpins our activities today. The first lecture was held in 1917 and over the years many distinguished scientists and scholars have shared their knowledge on a wide range of subjects. Past speakers include Sir Ernest Rutherford, Sir Edmund Hilary, Professor Lord Robert Winston, Rt. Hon. Helen Clark and Sir Jonathan Porritt.

Our annual lecture has typically been delivered in a traditional lecture format at local venues in Nelson. Due to Covid, in 2020 we delivered our first ever virtual annual lecture with several thousand viewers tuning in, and since then our lecture has been delivered both in-person and online.

On this page you can view recordings of all our annual lectures from 2013 onwards. Transcripts are available for most of the lectures prior to 2013, these will be added to this page shortly.

2023: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.80

Ice and us. Adapting to rising sea levels.

The 80th Annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture took place in June 2023. Guest keynote speakers Professor Richard Levy and Professor Tim Naish showed compelling data showing the impact of sea level rise in Nelson and throughout Aotearoa New Zealand. This was followed by supporting presentations from Dr Anna Berthelsen and Jacqui Stuart who discussed their climate change work at Cawthron.

2022: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.79

Our children’s climate and how we can make a difference.

The 79th annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture took place in July 2022 and featured a keynote speech by Professor Bronwyn Hayward, entitled ‘Our children’s climate and how we can make a difference’. A short talk was also given by Cawthron Institute Kaiārahi Rangahau Kaimōana (Māori Seafood Research Champion) Te Rerekohu Tuterangiwhiu. The Q&A session was facilitated by Event MC Damian Christie.

2021: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.78

Revolutionising post-operative pain relief.

Dr Charles Berde, a world-leading clinician who co-founded the Pain Treatment Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, was the keynote speaker at Cawthron’s 78th Annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture.

Dr Berde’s presentation – Revolutionising post-operative pain relief – examined several recent advances in care of patients after surgery. He was joined by Cawthron scientists Dr Johan Svenson and Andy Selwood who discussed how Cawthron’s research into microalgae and bioactives is contributing to these advances.


2020: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.77

Science Matters.

Live-streamed for the first time ever, the 77th Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture featured keynote speakers Dr Siouxsie Wiles (Associate Professor, University of Auckland) and Dr Serean Adams (Aquaculture Group Manager, Cawthron Institute) who offered their perspectives on the theme ‘Science Matters’.

Their presentations explored the value of scientific research and development to New Zealand’s society, now and in the future. The lecture concluded with a panel discussion, which also featured Cawthron’s Coastal Group Manager Dr Chris Cornelisen.

2019: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.76

Taking it back: Removing CO2 from the Atmosphere to limit climate change.

Visiting climate studies expert Professor Gideon Henderson of Oxford University was the keynote of the 2019 Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture. His talk focused on various methods of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere based on a report he chaired through the Royal Society, commissioned by the UK Government.

Opening the lecture was Cawthron’s Dr Susie Wood, who is recognised both nationally and internationally for her expertise in Cyanobacteria and freshwater ecosystems. Dr Wood focused her talk on the significant national research program she co-leads Lakes380: Our lakes’ health: past, present and future, which profiles the history and health of New Zealand’s 3800 lakes.

2018: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.75

Natural Capital: Reimagining Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

The 75th annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture was delivered by British environmentalist Sir Jonathon Porritt.

2017: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.74

Bringing indigenous nature back into New Zealand Cities.

The 74th annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture was presented by Professor Bruce Clarkson, University of Waikato’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research.

2016: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.73

Water: The extraordinary story of our most ordinary substance.

The 74th annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture was presented by science journalist, broadcaster and author Alok Jha in Nelson, 24 August, 2016. In this lecture, Alok presents a scientific voyage from the origins of water in the Big Bang, through the beginnings of life on earth, the shaping of human civilisations and then back out into space as water becomes the key marker in our search for life in the solar system and beyond.

2014: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.71

The Art of Mathematics and the Mathematics of Art.

The 71st annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture was presented by Professor Marcus du Sautoy, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of New College.

2013: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture No.70

Bending without breaking: Building resilience for sustainable development.

The 70th annual Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lecture was delivered by the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, administrator of the United Nations Development programme and former Prime Minister of New Zealand.

1917 – 2012: Thomas Cawthron Memorial Lectures 1 – 69

Content under development.

We are fortunate to have a record of many of our historic lectures. These are a wonderful resource, highlighting key themes and challenges of the time. Transcripts from these lectures will be loaded to this page shortly.