A literature expert once hailed as an "academic superstar" by the New York Times has become the first humanities scholar to receive New Zealand's highest research honour.
In winning the Rutherford Medal, presented by Royal Society Te Apārangi at Government House this evening, Distinguished Professor Brian Boyd made a case that humanities are a part of sciences - and vice versa.
Over three decades, the prestigious, annually-awarded medal has honoured New Zealand's eminent scientists: among them, professors Sir Peter Gluckman, Sir Alan MacDiarmid, Sir Paul Callaghan and Dame Margaret Brimble.
In 2013, renowned anthropologist Dame Anne Salmond became the first social scientist to win the Rutherford - but it wasn't until this year that the scope of the medal was widened to recognise humanities fields, such as the arts.
Boyd argued: "Actually, I think that the sciences are humanities ... and the humanities are sciences."
No science happened without language, culture, and traditions, he said, while humanities subjects themselves involved testing hypotheses against evidence, and challenging "received knowledge".
In his own work - Boyd is regarded as the world's leading scholar on the American-Russian author Vladimir Nabokov, who penned the 1955 classic Lolita - he was interested in how we as humans could extend our boundaries.
"As a humanist, you can choose to explore what humans have done wrong, and continue to do wrong, and there's no shortage of examples," the University of Auckland academic said.
"But I prefer to show how some humans have extended the possibilities for us all, in art or in thought. If we aren't inspired by what humans at their best can do, we might despair of what humans at their worst can do.
"I especially like to work on people who cross the boundaries of the arts, the humanities and the sciences."
Boyd has been lauded for his exceptional contribution to literary studies, humanities and social and natural sciences, both as a detailed specialist and by developing new and influential perspectives with influence far beyond literature.
His research has changed the way Nabokov's ideas and techniques are understood, and his two-volume critical life of Nabokov was called "a masterpiece" and "the greatest literary biography ever written", scooping awards around the world.
His 2009 book On the Origin of Stories has also been acclaimed "the most important reorientation" of literary studies since Northrop Frye's 1957 Anatomy of Criticism.
It argued that storytelling has given humans an evolutionary advantage and provided a new framework for studying the arts informed by evolutionary theory.
"He has argued convincingly that storytelling and art creation have given humans an evolutionary advantage, and he champions for scientific theories and methods to be applied to the arts," the society's president, Professor Wendy Larner, said of Boyd.
"Indeed, he makes a compelling case for why the humanities are sciences and the sciences are humanities."
Others honoured by the society this evening include Dr Cherryl Waerea-i-te-rangi Smith, who received the Health Research Council (HRC)'s Te Tohu Rapuora Award for her work on Māori-focused health projects.
She co-founded New Zealand's first community-based, independent research institute focused on environmental and health research to address Māori needs, and has since gone on to lead other influential efforts.
The HRC's Liley Medal was jointly awarded to Otago University's Professor Mark Weatherall and Mark Holliday, of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand.
Both are senior researchers on a New Zealand-led study that found patients with mild asthma were much less likely to have a severe asthma attack if they used inhalers combining preventive and reliever medications.
The Royal Society Te Apārangi Te Puāwaitanga award for an eminent and distinctive contribution to te ao Māori and indigenous knowledge was awarded to Victoria University's Associate Professor Maria Bargh.
Her work, focused on political economy and the environment, were helping reshape how New Zealand responded to environmental issues with respect to Māori.
Another Victoria University researcher, Professor Rawinia Higgins, was awarded the Pou Aronui award for helping revitalise Māori language.
The inaugural winner of the Tahunui-a-Rangi award for invention and creation was Professor David Tipene-Leach, of the Eastern Institute of Technology, for the wahakura - a flax sleeping device designed to decrease sudden infant death while supporting bedsharing.
The Thomson Medal went to Dr John Caradus, chief executive of Grasslanz Technology, whose career has focused on improving the value of grasslands for Kiwi farmers.
And the Hamilton Award - recognising early career researchers - went to Plant and Food Research's Dr Nick Albert.
A plant geneticist, Albert has made major contributions to understanding the compounds responsible for different colours in plants, their origins and how they are controlled.