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John Buckingham (1936-2021)

John had a wealth of experience in resource management in New Zealand’s public sector and in 2003 was appointed a member of the country’s Order of Merit, for services to science and technology.


In February 2021, Dr John Herbert Buckingham passed away aged 84. He was born in London but at the time of his death was living in New Zealand. He had more than 26 years’ experience in resource management in the New Zealand public service.

From 1987 to 2004 John was director of the Defence Technology Agency where he managed New Zealand’s defence technology programme, including research and development in oceanography, electronics, materials technology, operational analysis and human factors.

In 1990, he took the additional positions of chief military scientist of the New Zealand Defence Force and New Zealand principal for The Technical Cooperation Program between five nations (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand). During this time, he initiated collaboration between the US Naval Research Laboratory and New Zealand’s Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (now GNS Science) for the purpose of exploring New Zealand’s offshore methane hydrate deposits.

John was chair of the Accreditation Advisory Committee at International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) from 1987 to 2004. He also chaired the Testing Laboratory Registration Council (TELARC) from 1998 to 2004. After his retirement in 2004, John was chair of the Waimakariri Health Advisory Group.

A headshot of Dr John Buckingham in short and tie among trees

He was appointed a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2003 new year’s honours, for services to science and technology. That same year, he was elected a distinguished life member of the American Society of Materials (ASM International) for his leadership in advancing technology for the national security of New Zealand, and received the Asia Pacific Metrology Programme Award for his work on improving measurement standards and facilities around the Asia-Pacific region.

John had a BSc (hons) in applied physics, and a PhD in physics from Victoria University. He was a chartered physicist, a fellow of the IOP, a fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Physics, a member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, and a member of the Institute of Directors in New Zealand.

He is survived by his wife Angela, sons Miles, Nigel and Simon, and grandchildren Aidan and Amelie. Stepfather of Ricardo and Eliane, and grandfather of their five sons and one daughter.