Matter & What Matters
Lionel Sharman

Lionel Sharman MSc (chemistry) b 1938, worked as a forensic scientist from 1965 to 1997 in DSIR and ESR, the government organisations that provided forensic science services for the NZ Police. In that role he became very well known to Police, Legal Counsel and Judges, frequently presenting scientific evidence in court and establishing methodology and quality standards for much of the forensic analysis applied in New Zealand. He filled the position of Acting General Manager of Forensic Science for 18 months prior to retirement. Lionel is now retired and lives with his wife, Elaine, in Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

“I see myself a scientist, and in that role practised the science of chemistry for about 40 years, 30 of those as a forensic scientist. Forensic science made me acutely aware of the problems and limitations of scientific knowledge – what do we know, and why do we believe or doubt a scientific hypothesis? The interesting boundary between science, and legal “certainty”, is regularly explored in the forensic situation. This natural tension, as well as my own inclination, drew me into areas regarded as philosophical or spiritual.

I originally studied science because I wanted to know: Why does the universe work the way it does? Is scientific “knowledge” a product of the way our brain works? How does the brain work? Why do we do what we do? Are we responsible for our actions? What is time? Space? Why does music enchant and empower us?

As part of this venture I have been involved with Christianity for most of my adult life, but the relationship has not always been easy. Religion can never be an alternative science or a science gap-filler. Rather religion is a source of wonder and compassion. It is a moral direction. These matters and concerns are drivers of my involvement with the human arts, particularly music and poetry. I dream that some of the more difficult and non-common sense aspects of science may be better communicated by allusive poetry rather than logical prose.”

Lionel is also a practising musician, composing music (mainly for beginners) and performing on piano, harpsichord, and organ.