World-renowned Kiwi scientist Jim Flynn dies aged 86

Jim Flynn giving a TED Talk on the 'Flynn effect' in 2013.
Jim Flynn giving a TED Talk on the 'Flynn effect' in 2013.

World-renowned Kiwi scientist Professor James Robert Flynn (Jim) has died aged 86.

Prof Flynn, described as a "gentleman", "beautiful human" and "great scientist", taught political studies as an emeritus professor at the University of Otago.

He was widely known for his pioneering discovery of 'the Flynn effect' - the steady increase of IQ scores in the past century. His TED Talk on cognitive and moral progress has over 4.4 million views.

As an internationally renowned author, Prof Flynn wrote over 100 scholarly papers and articles, as well as nonfiction books about philosophy, the theory of intelligence, US politics and climate change.

Former students, colleagues and followers have paid tribute to Prof Flynn and his achievements on social media.

"Without a doubt the most intelligent person I have known and to attend his lectures was a tour de force. Rest easy Jim," said one user.

"One of the great intellectuals of the age," said another, who also attended lectures by Flynn.

"My department - and the world - lost an absolute treasure last night. RIP, Jim Flynn," wrote Otago University professor Rachel Zajac.

"An absolute giant of teaching, researching, campaigning and both University and civic life. He will be missed," Dunedin mayor Aaron Hawkins said.

Born in Washington DC, Prof Flynn graduated with a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1958 and lectured in America until 1963, when he immigrated to New Zealand.

He worked as a lecturer at the University of Canterbury before becoming a professor at Otago University in 1967.

Otago University awarded him its distinguished research medal in 2002 and an honorary Doctorate of Science in 2010.

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