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  • The Physical Tourist

    Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth

    Thomas C. OConnor*

    I describe some of the rich physical and natural-philosophy heritage of the urban center ofthe Irish capital Dublin (first tour) and its environs (second tour), in a two-part excursionthat could take between two and eight hours in toto. In terms of history, both tours centeraround the nineteenth century. The first tour is located in and around Trinity College, andwe encounter such personages as William Rowan Hamilton, George Fitzgerald, ErnestWalton, and Erwin Schrodinger, among others. Moving away from Trinity College, thesecond tour explores some of the periphery of the city. I describe the role of politics, money,and religion in shaping the emergence and development of scientific talent among the Irishpeople, and consequently the footprint left by physics in the city today, with its numeroussites and names that put Irish physics in an honorable place among the nations.

    Key words: Dublin; nineteenth century; physics; university education; natural

    Philosophy; Trinity College; University of Dublin; Catholic University of Ireland.

    Historical Setting

    Dublin is situated near the middle of the east coast of Ireland, where the river

    Liffey empties into the Irish Sea. From the eighth to the eleventh century, it was a

    substantial settlement and trading hub for the Norsemen (Vikings). In the twelfth

    century, it was the site of the invasion of Ireland by Normans from Britain and

    became the center for English rule in Ireland. This rule was gradually extended

    from a small dominion or Pale around Dublin to other parts of the country, so

    that by the end of the sixteenth century Dublin was the capital of Ireland. For

    another century the country was in turmoil during the campaigns of Oliver

    Cromwell and William III to secure military control of the whole island and set the

    landlord classes on the ascendency to rule the country. This enabled Dublin to

    develop in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to the extent that it became

    * Thomas C. OConnor joined the Department of Physics at what is now called the NationalUniversity of Ireland, Galway, in 1956. Upon his retirement in 1996, he continued to workon various projects including the history of science and preservation of instrumentation.When he died, aged 81, after a sudden illness on November 6, 2012, he had almost com-pleted this article, which has been finished for him in his memory.

    Phys. Perspect. 16 (2014) 98128 2014 Springer Basel1422-6944/14/010098-31

    DOI 10.1007/s00016-014-0131-y Physics in Perspective


  • second to London as the most important city in the growing British Empire. The

    city expanded outside its walls with wide streets, elegant Georgian terraced town

    houses, pleasant squares, and gardens (figure 1). Some landlords built large

    imposing homes such as Leinster House, now the seat of the Irish parliament, and

    the government erected many fine public buildings.

    Dublin was mainly an administrative center without local energy sources and did

    not develop large industries during the Industrial Revolution. It did have breweries

    and distilleries, of which Guinness and Jameson were the best known. Throughout

    the twentieth century the suburbs expanded to incorporate many villages and

    towns. Today, many industries can be found in industrial parks around the city,

    including Microsoft in Sandyford, IBM in Damestown, and Intel in Leixlip.

    Early History

    Sophisticated science and technology have existed in Ireland from the earliest

    times. The Neolithic inhabitants of the Boyne valley circa 3000 BC constructed

    Fig. 1. The area around Trinity College in Dublin. Source: http://www.tcd.ie/Maps/.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 99


  • large passage grave mounds involving remarkable skills in astronomy and engi-

    neering techniques. One of these, now called Newgrange, is 80 m in diameter and

    has a small opening above the entrance to the 20 m passage that allows the rising

    sun at the winter solstice to penetrate into the central chamber for a few minutes

    every year (figure 2). This predates the pyramids of Giza by about 500 years. The

    Treasury of the National Museum contains prehistoric gold ornamentation and

    metal work of a high order. During the Christian era, in the sixth to the ninth

    centuries, monks produced ecclesiastical metalwork and illuminated manuscripts

    of great quality, noteworthy examples being the Ardagh chalice and the Book of

    Kells. Monks from Irish monasteries were also noted throughout Europe for their

    skills in astronomical calculations, such as in establishing the date of Easter.

    Toward the end of the sixteenth century, the civil authorities in Dublin became

    more secure and moves were made to establish a university. The land and buildings

    of the former Augustinian Priory of All Hallows to the east of the city walls were

    given to the city at the dissolution of the monasteries and were designated as the

    site for a university. On March 3, 1592, Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to

    create the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, to become the mother of a

    university with the aim of providing education, training and instruction of youths

    and students in the Arts and Faculties that they may be the better assisted in thestudy of the liberal arts and the cultivation of virtue and religion. Now known

    formally as Dublin University, and informally as Trinity College, it was to follow

    the model of the great English universities of Oxford and Cambridge, though it

    Fig. 2. The Neolithic monument Newgrange, in County Meath, Ireland. Credit: Tourism Ireland


    100 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • never developed a multiplicity of constituent Colleges. It has been referred to as

    the last of the medieval and the first of the colonial universities.1 The early

    curriculum consisted mainly of philosophy and theology, while the natural sciences

    were presented mainly in medieval dress with an emphasis on mathematics. In

    1724, the University established the Erasmus Smith Professorship of Natural Phi-

    losophy. The first holder of the chair, Richard Helsham (16821738, figure 3) held

    credentials in medicine, and wrote one of the first textbooks in English on physics.

    Lectures on Natural Philosophy (1739). The book, edited by Helshams former

    student Bryan Robinson, remained a classic for more than a century and ran

    through eight editions in Dublin, London, and Philadelphia.

    Intellectual Life in Dublin

    An idea of the development of Dublins intellectual life may be gleaned from the

    history of some of its professional and intellectual discussion groups.2 As the main

    center of higher education in Dublin, Trinity College provided training for the

    professions and was the wellspring for most of the intellectual life in the city. In

    1684, William Molyneux (16561698), following the example of the Royal Society

    in London, set up the Dublin Society for the Improving of Natural Knowledge,

    Mathematics, and Mechanics to encourage the interest in science in Ireland.

    Known as the Dublin Philosophical Society, it met with mixed success and was

    abandoned in 1708. Others sought to set up a Fraternity of Physicians at Trinity to

    regulate the training of medical doctors, and in 1711 the University established a

    medical School of Physic, now known as the School of Medicine. Members of this

    Fig. 3. Richard Helsham (16821738). Credit: Professor Dennis Weaire, Department of Physics,Trinity College Dublin.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 101

  • school participated in founding the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland under a

    charter of 1692 and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 1784, both of

    which were independent of the University and continue to provide medical

    training, qualifications, and research to the present day.

    In 1731, a group of landed gentry and professional men founded the Dublin

    Society for Improving Husbandry, Manufactures, and other Useful Arts, which

    acquired the Royal prefix in 1820, when King George IV (17621830) became

    patron of the Society. It paid considerable attention to the applied sciences. The

    Royal Dublin Society was involved with the foundation of many cultural and

    scientific institutions in Ireland and continues to play a prominent role in the

    promotion of science in Ireland. In 1785, the Irish Academy was founded to

    represent more fundamental and academic scholarship and publish material in

    science, antiquities, and polite literature. It received the Royal approval from King

    George III in 1786. The Royal Irish Academy continues to be very active today in

    most aspects of the sciences and humanities.

    Developments in Higher Education

    Trinity College was the only university in Ireland for over two hundred years and

    still occupies its original site. It had a generally Protestant Anglican ethos. In 1785,

    it established an astronomical observatory at Dunsink on a low hill about five

    miles outside the north west of the city. This observatory is still operational today.

    In 1795 the Irish Parliamentknown as Grattans Parliamentin Dublin passed

    an Act to create an academy for the better education of persons professing the

    popish or Roman Catholic religion at Maynooth, about 12 miles west of Dublin.

    This became Irelands national seminary and did not cater to non-clerical students

    until recently. It has always had a professor of natural and experimental philos-

    ophy or physics.

    In 1845, the Government in London set up the Queens University of Ireland

    (QUI) with constituent Colleges in Belfast, Cork, and Galway to provide non-

    denominational third (postsecondary) level education in the provinces of Ireland

    outside Dublin. From the outset, each College had a chair of natural philosophy

    whose duties included teaching experimental physics and mathematical physics to

    advanced classes. Apart from their medical schools, the number of graduates

    produced was small.

    The Catholic bishops of Ireland responded in 1854 by setting up the Catholic

    University of Ireland with John Henry Newman (18011890), then a plain priest

    and recent convert, as rector. The government provided no official recognition or

    financial support for this University, which, apart from its medical school, lan-

    guished for want of students. In 1883, its operations, at 8486 St. Stephens Green

    in Dublin, were placed in the care of the Jesuit Society and developed as Uni-

    versity College Dublin.3 Meanwhile, the Royal Dublin Society was active in

    encouraging applied science and industry in Ireland, sponsoring public lectures

    102 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • and providing laboratories for research. At the instigation of Robert Kane

    (18091890), it established a Museum of Irish Industry at 51 St. Stephens Green.

    In 1867, this was taken over by the government and incorporated into the Royal

    College of Science for Ireland, which provided advanced instruction in the applied

    sciences, engineering, mining, and agriculture.4

    To deal with the Irish University question, in 1880 the government in London

    decided to replace the Queens University of Ireland with the Royal University of

    Ireland (RUI), which had been only an examining and degree-awarding body. It

    had substantial premises on Earlsfort Terrace (figure 4) with extensive laborato-

    ries that were used only for practical examinations a few times each year. Fellows

    of the University could obtain permission to use the laboratory facilities for per-

    sonal research at other times of the year. The three Queens Colleges and some

    denominational educational establishments around the country could prepare

    students to take the RUI examinations and obtain degrees. Among the latter were

    Magee College in Derry, University College Dublin, St. Patricks College May-

    nooth, and some large schools and seminaries that were incorporated into the

    Catholic University of Ireland.

    Further reorganization of the universities took place in 1908 when the Royal

    University of Ireland was abolished. The Queens College in Belfast became

    Fig. 4. The central building at the Royal University of Ireland, now converted into the NationalConcert Hall. Credit: Failte Ireland Imagery.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 103

  • independent as the Queens University Belfast (QUB), and the Queens Colleges

    in Cork and Galway were confederated with University College Dublin to form

    the National University of Ireland (NUI). St. Patricks College in Maynooth also

    became a recognized College of the NUI. In 1996, further developments retained

    the NUI, though the individual colleges at Dublin, Cork, Galway, and Maynooth

    were given greater autonomy.

    Technical education and training were not widespread in Ireland during the

    nineteenth century because the country was not heavily industrialized. Mechanics

    institutes existed in the larger urban areas. In 1887, the City of Dublin Technical

    Institute was established in Kevin Street. Further colleges were established around

    the city and developed into the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) of today. In

    1980, a new National Institute of Higher Education (NIHE) was established to

    provide training for new technological disciplines and in 1989 was given university

    status as Dublin City University on a campus in the north of the city. Eight

    Regional Technical Colleges were set up around the country in the 1960s, which

    were upgraded to degree-awarding Institutes of Technology in the 1990s.

    In 1940, the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was established to

    provide advanced research and training in Celtic Studies and Theoretical Physics.

    It attracted such scholars as Erwin Schrodinger (18871961) and J. L. Synge

    (18971995). In 1947, a School of Cosmic Physics was established to cover the

    areas of Meteorology and Geophysics, Cosmic Rays, and Astrophysics and

    Astronomy. In recent decades, with vigorous support from the Government, all

    these higher education establishments have increased their research activities,

    particularly in the broad areas of biotechnology, photonics, ICT, astrophysics, and

    environmental change studies. In addition, many multinational firms in the area of

    biopharmacology, computing systems, medical devices, and software have set up

    successful manufacturing and research and development facilities in Ireland.

    John Tyndalls Apology and a Delayed Reply

    John Tyndall (18201893, figure 5)5 is best remembered today as the discoverer of

    the greenhouse effect and as the debunker (with Louis Pasteur) of the theory of

    spontaneous generation as the cause of epidemic disease. He was from Carlow,

    moving to England and Germany after his first education locally. Although he did

    not live in Dublin or even in Ireland, after the age of twenty he was an influential

    voice on science education throughout the United Kingdom. Let me mention one

    episode involving Tyndall to convey some of the complexity surrounding the

    development of science in Ireland towards the end of the nineteenth century,

    putting as it were a little flesh onto the bare bones of buildings and names.

    On Wednesday, August 19, 1874, Tyndall addressed a meeting of the British

    Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) in Belfast and gave an

    inflammatory speech in which he appeared to espouse materialist values; his

    speech was angrily denounced by both Protestants and Catholics in Belfast. Some

    104 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • months later, Cardinal Paul Cullen of Dublin, through his nephew Bishop Moran,

    issued a pastoral address condemning Tyndall as professor of materialism. In

    reply to his many religious opponents, Cullen in particular, Tyndall published a

    thorough Apology for the Belfast Address, where among many other things he

    replied to several criticisms and then passed to the attack in the following way:

    Before me lies a document bearing the date of November 1873, which, after appearing for a

    moment, unaccountably vanished from public view. It is a Memorial addressed, by Seventy of

    the Students and Ex-students of the Catholic University in Ireland, to the Episcopal Board of

    the University; and it constitutes the plainest and bravest remonstrance ever addressed by Irish

    laymen to their spiritual pastors and masters. It expresses the profoundest dissatisfaction with

    the curriculum marked out for the students of the University; setting forth the extraordinary

    fact that the lecture-list for the faculty of Science, published a month before they wrote, did not

    contain the name of a single Professor of the Physical or Natural Sciences.

    And further down: The memorialists point with bitterness to the fact, that the

    name of no Irish Catholic is known in connection with the physical and natural


    To my knowledge, no direct reply was given to these observations at the time,

    but a reply can be simply mounted based on two facts that were no secret to

    Tyndall. First, the allegation that no Irish Catholic (was) known in connection

    with physics and the natural sciences in or around 1874 was simply false, and

    Tyndall knew better than going along with the memorialists on this point. He

    knew Sir Robert John Kane (18091890), Professor of Chemistry in Queens

    College Cork; Henry Hennessy (18261901), physicist and mathematician, Pro-

    fessor of Natural Philosophy in the same college and earlier in the Catholic

    Fig. 5. John Tyndall (18201893). Source: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/*irlcar2/John_Tyndall.htm.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 105


  • University of Ireland (CUI) under Newman; astronomer John Birmingham

    (18221884), who drew the first catalogue of colored stars; as well as other Irish

    Catholic scholars. Second, the comparison between the CUI (as the memorialists

    experienced it in 1874) and the University of Dublin was unfair, as if comparing

    the strengths of two creatures that were at very different stages in their devel-

    opmental histories. TCD had been founded in 1591, the CUI in 1851. The former

    had a large grant from the government in London, while the latter was supported

    by an impoverished Catholic population. While at the time TCD had between

    1000 and 1500 students, the CUI had about twenty. Physics was among the most

    expensive subjects to teach, while the humanities were the most inexpensive, so

    the choice of subjects for the curricula in the CUI was severely limited, even if they

    had had an eminent professor available to them. Throughout the nineteenth

    century in Ireland, Catholics in the sciences were indeed a minority, even if

    demographically they constituted the majority.

    First Tour

    First we will take a walking tour in central Dublin. The Liffey flows from west to

    east through the center of the city and divides it into the Northside and the

    Southside. The principal bridge, OConnell Bridge, is named after the patriot and

    parliamentarian Daniel OConnell (17751848) and has the distinction of being

    wider than it is long. Looking along the main thoroughfare, OConnell Street, we

    note Dublins Spire, which was erected to mark the Millennium in 2000. It acts as a

    point of reference when viewed from various parts of the city. A short walk

    southwards along Westmoreland Street leads us to College Green, a busy open

    area in front of Trinity College. On one side is the imposing building that func-

    tioned as the home of the Irish Parliament until 1800, when it was abolished by

    the Act of Union, with Ireland becoming part of the United Kingdom of Great

    Britain and Ireland. This building served as the seat of both chambers

    (the Lords and Commons) of the Irish Parliament of the Kingdom of Ireland, and

    was the worlds first building designed as a two-chamber parliament house; it is

    currently a branch of the Bank of Ireland. Behind us, Dame Street leads west

    towards City Hall and Dublin Castle in the heart of the ancient city, once the

    financial center of Dublin. To the south, Grafton Street leads to a fashionable

    shopping area and the main Dublin tourism center is close by in what was St

    Andrews Church in Suffolk Street.

    Let us now pass through the main gate of Trinity College through the front

    building erected in 1779 and enter the Front Square, which retains its old-world

    appearance. One may pause to consider how these cobbled stones once felt the

    tread of such physicists and mathematicians as Richard Helsham (16721731;

    though in his case probably not these actual cobblestones), the first Erasmus Smith

    Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy (as physics was then known)

    from 1724, William Rowan Hamilton (18051867), James McCullagh (18091847),

    106 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • Humphrey Lloyd (18801881), George Fitzgerald (18511901), John Joly

    (18571933), and Ernest Walton (19031995). The gowned and whiskered sons of

    an elite have been replaced by a multinational student body more casually dressed,

    and with an increasing number of women since Trinity admitted its first women

    students in 1904.

    Crossing Front or Parliament Square diagonally to the right brings us to the old

    library of the College, with its famous Long Room housing over 200,000 of its

    older books. As a copyright library, it is entitled to a copy of every publication in

    the UK and Ireland after 1801. It now has over four million volumes and also

    houses many important ancient manuscripts, including a special exhibition of the

    world-famous Book of Kells, a magnificently decorated illuminated copy of the

    four Gospels dating from the eighth century. This exhibit is well worth a visit; plan

    to spend at least thirty minutes to marvel at the skills of the ancient monks in their

    scriptorium. The library also reminds us of the many books produced by Trinity

    academics over the centuries, many of them textbooks written in English as a

    break with the traditional Latin. Richard Helsham first produced Lectures in

    Natural Philosophy in 1739; an edited edition recently appeared in 1999. William

    Molyneaux (16561698) wrote the Dioptrica Nova, the first optical treatise in

    English in 1692, and many others followed. A bookstore makes available some of

    the newer ones. Now let us pass on by newer extensions to the Library named after

    famous College Fellows: the Berkeley Library, named after George Berkeley

    (16851753), a philosopher and don who also gave his name to a University in

    California; the Lecky library, recalling the noted historian William Lecky

    (18381903); and the Ussher Library in memory of Archbishop James Ussher

    (15811656), whose biblical studies led him to conclude that the world began in

    4004 BC.

    We now come to the Museum Building (1855), with a beautiful, recently

    refurbished stone facade. It was designed according to the refined aesthetical

    principles of John Ruskin as a fitting home for engineering and science, signaling

    their growing importance in the university. It is worth a quick visit to see where

    John Joly worked in mineralogy, devising a meldometer to observe the melting

    and sublimation behavior of minerals and the use of radiohalos, discolorations due

    to radiation damage that form in certain rocks, which can be used to estimate their

    age. He also designed a well-known steam calorimeter, developed a process for

    color photography, and devised a method for treating cancers with hollow needles

    filled with the radioactive gas radon.

    Walking on, we enter the beautiful green expanse of College Park, an oasis for

    sport in the city center. At the far end, we see the cricket pavilion and its steps,

    from which George Francis Fitzgerald once tried to launch himself in flight with a

    winged contraption. On the left is the rugby pitch still used by the members of the

    second-oldest club in the sport, the Dublin University Rugby Football Club

    (DURFC), founded in 1879.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 107

  • At its end stands the main objective of our visitthe Physics Building (fig-

    ure 6). This building opened in 1906 and is now named after G. F. Fitzgerald

    (18511901, figure 7), the fifteenth Erasmus Smith Professor of Natural Philoso-

    phy, who had campaigned strenuously for it but did not live to see it completed.

    For the history of the building, and of the subject of physics in the College, the

    reader is invited to read Professor Weaires recent paper.6 Fitzgerald contributed

    two of the three equations central to Einsteins theory of relativity. He was very

    vocal in academic politics and in determined opposition to the second Home Rule

    movement. On the wall near the door, we observe the blue commemorative pla-

    que to one of his successors, Nobel laureate Ernest T. S. Walton (19031995,

    figure 8), who shared the 1951 prize with John Cockcroft (18971967) as the first to

    split the atomic nucleus with artificially accelerated particles in 1932. Waltons

    original accelerator is now in Cambridge. Inside the department, above the elegant

    staircase (figure 9), other venerable professors look down on visitors. These

    include J. H. Jellett (18171888), whose saccharimeter is on display in presses on

    the landing, and Humphrey Lloyd (18001881), who demonstrated conical

    refraction in biaxial crystals and, by what is known as Lloyds mirror experiment,

    showed that light changes phase on reflection. He is also noted for the develop-

    ment of sensitive magnetometers that were used to map variations in terrestrial

    magnetism around the world. He built a special magnetic observatory in the

    Provosts garden in 1838, where it stood until it was moved to the grounds of

    Fig. 6. The Physics Building at Trinity College. Credit: Professor Denis Weaire.

    108 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • University College Dublin in Belfield in 1974. Erwin Schrodinger (figure 10), who

    worked here for a period of the Second World War, also looks kindly on us.

    The glass cases contain many interesting classical instruments and demonstra-

    tion apparatus, including a Wilson cloud chamber. There is a copy of Helshams

    original lecture notes on physics and a translation of it into Latin, dedicated to

    Queen Mary. In a study room is an elaborate wall clock, presented to Fitzgerald by

    his students on the occasion of his marriage to Harriette Jellett in 1885. Some of

    the laboratories are now devoted to nanotechnology research. On the top floor,

    the large physics theater retains many of the original features from 1906. On the

    roof, a small observatory was added in 2008 and named after William Monck, an

    amateur astronomer who made the first photoelectric measurements of starlight in

    his garden at 16 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin in 1896.

    Behind the Physics Building is the Sami Nasr Institute of Advanced Materials

    (SNIAM) building, which houses modern teaching and research facilities in the

    Fig. 7. G. F. Fitzgerald (18511901). Credit: Professor Denis Weaire.

    Fig. 8. T. S. Walton (19031995). Credit: Professor Denis Weaire.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 109

  • physical and chemical aspects of material science. In the foyer are photographs of

    G. F. Fitzgeralds attempts to fly in College Park during the 1880s. There is also a

    model of the Weaire-Phelan tightly packed foam (figure 11) that was used to

    construct the roof of the aquatic center for the Olympic Games in Beijing. To

    learn more about the historical treasures in the School of Physics and the modern

    cutting-edge research in the areas of magnetic, electronic and photonic materials,

    nanoscience, foams, surface physics, etc. a visitor must make arrangements in

    advance through the school executive officer (see www.tcd.ie/physics).

    Emerging from SNIAM, we are surrounded by many new science laboratories

    and research institutes, mainly concerned with the life sciences. Crossing under the

    elevated railway line, we come to the Science Gallery, where temporary

    Fig. 9. The staircase in Trinity Colleges physics department. Credit: Professor Denis Weaire.

    110 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.


  • exhibitions, aimed at presenting science to the public, are regularly mounted

    (www.sciencegallery.ie). We exit on to Pearse Street, turn right at the traffic lights,

    and walk under the railway line up to the top of Westland Row, passing a terrace

    of Georgian houses that now serve as offices for Trinity College personnel.

    Alternatively, we can retrace our steps to the east end of College Park and make

    our way to the Parsons Building, named after Charles Parsons (18541931),

    developer of the steam turbine, and now home to the Department of Mechanical

    Fig. 10. Erwin Schrodinger (18871961). Source: http://philosophyofscienceportal.blogspot.ie/


    Fig. 11. Model of Weaire-Phelan tightly packed foam. Credit: Professor Denis Weaire.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 111


  • and Manufacturing Engineering (see figure 1). We can then exit Trinity through

    the Lincoln Place gate and turn left to the top of Westland Row.

    Crossing the road to Swenys pharmacy, we find that it retains many of the

    features described in James Joyces (18821941) novel Ulysses. Passing around the

    corner brings us into Merrion Square, one of Dublins finest Georgian Squares,

    where almost every house has an interesting history. Crossing the street, we find

    No. 5, once home to William Stokes (18041878), a famous nineteenth-century

    physician and member of a very distinguished family. Since 1947, it has been the

    home of the School of Cosmic Physics, a part of the Dublin Institute for Advanced

    Studies (DIAS). Originally it housed the Cosmic Ray section, where Cormac

    OCeallaigh (19121996) and others studied the primary and secondary particles,

    and the Meteorological and Geophysics section, where Leo Pollak (18881964)

    developed condensation nucleus counters and Thomas Murphy conducted gravi-

    metric and magnetic surveys in Ireland. Today it is mainly devoted to seismic

    studies and has a small exhibition in memory of Robert Mallet (18101881), who

    pioneered the measurement of shock waves through the earth and the epicenter of

    earthquakes. His name is also displayed in Dublin at the base of the pillars in the

    iron railings along the Nassau Street boundary of Trinity College, which were cast

    in his family iron foundry on Ryders Row. The Cosmic Ray section of the School

    has moved to Fitzwilliam Lane, and currently deals more with fundamental

    questions in Astrophysics. The Astronomy section of the School has always

    operated from Dunsink Observatory, where it studies solar physics and the for-

    mation of stars.

    Going back to 1 Merrion Square, we notice a plaque marking the home of Sir

    William Wilde (18151876). The plaque lists his many accomplishments, among

    them having been an eye surgeon famous in the city for his charitable work and the

    developer of an effective ophthalmoscope. He was the father of Oscar Wilde

    (18541900), the playwright and poet whose statue across the road in the corner of

    the park is worth a visit to see its artistic use of multicolored stone from around the

    world. A stroll across the gardens leads to 65 Merrion Square, where the DIAS

    Schools of Celtic Studies and of Theoretical Physics were located from 1940 until

    1971, when they both moved to their present location at 10 Burlington Road.

    Erwin Schrodinger was a senior professor there from 19401956 and Walter

    Heitler (19041981) also worked there from 19411949.

    On the West side of Merrion Square is the National Gallery of Ireland, which

    exhibits many masterpieces. Behind the lawn stands Leinster House, built as a

    town house by the Dukes of Leinster in 1745 and later the home of the Royal

    Dublin Society from 1815 to 1924 and the site of the worlds second Great

    Industrial Exhibition in 1853. It is now the seat of the Irish parliament (or Dail).

    Next is the Natural History Museum, known colloquially as the Dead Zoo,

    which retains many of its original Victorian display cases. Next to that are gov-

    ernment buildings housing the offices of the Prime Minister (or Taoiseach) and the

    Minister for Finance. Within this complex, behind the gates and under the clock

    112 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • tower, is the former Royal College of Science for Ireland, which moved there

    when it opened in 1911 and provided much of the facilities for science and engi-

    neering in University College Dublin, which took it over in 1926. These facilities

    have moved to the new suburban campus at Belfield to make way for Government

    offices. The only remaining indication of its scientific past are the statues outside

    the main entrance of Robert Boyle (16271691) and William Rowan Hamilton


    Passing on though the traffic lights, we enter Ely Place; the plaque on No. 7 to

    the left marks the home of G. F. Fitzgerald, whom we encountered at Trinity

    College. His home now houses part of the governments Parks and Wildlife Ser-

    vices offices. Turning into Hume Street, we pass the former Dublin Skin and

    Cancer Hospital and come to St. Stephens Green, another fine square with a park

    in the center. Turning left, we arrive at No. 51, built in 1760 as the town house of

    Monck family, and from 1848 the site of the Museum of Irish Industry and the

    Museum of Economic Geology, established by Robert Kane (18091890) to pro-

    mote the economic development of Ireland. In 1867, it was transformed into the

    Royal College of Science for Ireland, to provide instruction in matters relating to

    Irish industry. Here Walter Hartley (18461913) conducted his pioneering

    research in spectroscopy, and William Barrett (18441925) had what was probably

    the first purpose built laboratory for teaching physics in Dublin. When the College

    of Science moved to its splendid new premises on Merrion Street in 1911, the

    house was taken over by the Commissioners of Public Works; more recently, it has

    become part of the Government Department of Justice and Equality. In the

    entrance hall are still displayed forty examples of Irish stone such as marble,

    including Galway green, Kilkenny black and Cork red, but little else remains of its

    scientific past.

    Walking up St. Stephens Green through the traffic lights, we come to Earlsfort

    Terrace. The right-hand side was the site of the Great Industrial Exhibitions of

    1865 and 1872. Some of the buildings for these were given to the Royal University

    of Ireland (RUI) on its establishment in 1880. The curricula and examinations

    were drawn up by senior Fellows of the University who were members of the

    teaching staff of some of the third-level educational institutions in Ireland and who

    could get permission to use the laboratory facilities for personal research, when

    available. This arrangement allowed Thomas Preston (18601900) in 1896 to dis-

    cover the anomalous Zeeman effect in spectra excited in a magnetic field. It also

    enabled John A. McClelland (18701920) to carry out his groundbreaking studies

    on radioactivity and the scattering of beta rays while a professor of physics at

    University College Dublin (UCD). When the RUI was dissolved in 1909 and

    replaced by the federal National University of Ireland (NUI), the premises were

    given to UCD. These were partially demolished and replaced by the present

    building in 1914. McClelland conducted research on atmospheric aerosols and

    friction until his death in 1920. His successor John J. Nolan (18871952) and his

    brother Patrick J. Nolan (18941984) carried on research on atmospheric

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 113

  • electricity. Thomas E. Nevin (19061986) led research on molecular spectroscopy

    and cosmic rays from the 1930s. As mentioned above, in the 1960s UCD science

    departments moved out to a new suburban campus at Belfield. Remaining sections

    of UCD moved out to Belfield in 2002. The building is now the National Concert

    Hall (figure 4) and little remains of its scientific past except a commemorative


    Another site in the history of physics and astronomy was 16 Earlsfort Terrace,

    the home of the amateur astronomer William Monck (18391915). In the garden

    behind the house, the first absolute measurement of light from heavenly bodies

    were made using a telescope supplied by Monck, a selenium cell invented by an

    Irishman George Minchin (18451914) in London, together with a sensitive

    detector from G. F. Fitzgerald. They were able to show, for instance, that Venus

    was 2.5 times brighter than Jupiter. This was the start of stellar photometry. A

    plaque on No. 16 commemorates this historic experiment.

    We can now return to St. Stephens Green and turn left, making our way to

    Nos. 8486, which were the premises used by the Catholic bishops in 1854 to set

    up the Catholic University of Ireland (CUI) with John Henry Newman

    (18011890), who served as Rector until 1858. Having returned to England, he

    became a cardinal in 1879 and was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in

    2010. These buildings were also used by University College Dublin, whose first

    professor of natural philosophy was Henry Hennessy (18261901), a Fellow of

    the Royal Society (FRS). He was succeeded by Monsignor Gerard Molloy

    (18341906), who built up a substantial collection of demonstration apparatus he

    used to give popular public lectures on scientific topics. Much of this collection is

    preserved in UCD at its new campus in Belfield. At the time, the facilities for

    physics laboratories were confined to tin sheds at the rear of No. 85. Molloy

    became Rector of the CUI and was followed in 1891 by Thomas Preston, FRS

    (18601900) as professor of physics. When he died in 1900 he was succeeded by

    John A. McClelland, FRS (18701920), who, like Preston, did his personal

    research in the laboratories of the RUI on Earlsfort Terrace and supervised the

    transfer of UCD there in 1909, as well as the building of a new physics

    department in 1914. A connection between these premises at the back through

    the Iveagh Gardens, now a public park, once belonged to the Earl of Iveagh, a

    member of the Guinness family. There is little left of the history of physics, but a

    visit next door to the recently restored Byzantine-style chapel built by Newman

    is worthwhile.

    Crossing the street at the traffic lights, we leave St. Stephens Green behind and

    enter Cuffe Street. This takes us to Kevin Street Lower, at the end of which is the

    site of Dublins first Technical Institute. The plaque commemorates Arnold

    Graves (18471930), who founded this Institute and was known as the father of

    technical education in Ireland. The current building houses part of the Colleges of

    Science and Engineering & Built Environment, within the greatly expanded

    Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

    114 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • Crossing Bride Street into Kevin Street Upper, we can then make a right into

    St. Patricks Close. Here Irelands first public library was founded in 1701, by

    Narcissus Marsh (16361713), for all graduates and gentlemen. It contains a

    priceless collection of early books and maps. Marsh was a man with a wide range

    of interests, a founding member of the Dublin Philosophical Society, Provost of

    Trinity, and Archbishop of Dublin. He is credited with coining the words

    acoustics and microphone for sound to correspond to optics and micro-

    scope for light. Shortly beyond the Marsh Library is St. Patricks Church of

    Ireland Cathedral, where Dean Jonathan Swift (16671745) served, whose political

    satire Gullivers Travels predicted the existence of two moons of Mars 150 years

    before they were discovered. He also suggested to his flock that they move to the

    suburbs from the city center to avoid the air pollution.

    In this part of Dublin, we are close to where many important developments in

    the practice of medicine took place in the nineteenth century. The Meath Hospital,

    which stood in nearby Heytesbury Street before it moved out to the suburb of

    Tallaght in 1998, was a center for innovation in medicine. Here in 1844, Francis

    Rynd (18011861) performed the worlds first subcutaneous injection and thus

    invented the hypodermic syringe. Here too William Stokes (18041878) pioneered

    the use of the stethoscope in medicine particularly for heart conditions such as

    Stokes-Adams syndrome and Cheyne-Stokes respiration. Robert Graves

    (17961853), Robert Adams (17911875), and John Houston (18021845) were

    others who contributed with Stokes to raise levels of patient care and medical

    training that brought international renown to the Dublin School of Medicine in

    their time.

    Adjacent to the Cathedral, we can walk through historic St. Patricks Park and

    turn right back on to Bride Street. Taking a left on to Bishop Street brings us past

    the National Archive and the DIT campus in Aungier Street. This is a large new

    facility on the site of the old Jacobs biscuit factory. In the nearby Church of the

    Carmelite Fathers (in Whitefriars Street) one can find a shrine for the ancient

    statue of Our Lady of Dublin and also the relics of Saint Valentine, a Roman

    martyr, whose feast day on February 14 has acquired romantic connections in

    more recent times.

    Across the street is York Street, from which one can enter the newly expanded

    medical campus of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI), founded in

    1784 and moved to this location in 1810. A tour of its fine reception rooms under

    the gaze of many distinguished past Presidents can be arranged, but a virtual tour

    is available on the website www.RCSI.ie in a video entitled 200 years on St.

    Stephens Green. Much of the substantial collection of surgical instruments,

    including the first practical endoscope invented in 1865 by a physician Francis

    Cruise (18341912) to look inside a patients body, is now on public display in the

    new hospital in Beaumount in North Dublin. The library of the College is now

    housed nearby in the former Mercers Hospital building. Back on St. Stephens

    Green, we can see the fine facade of the RCSI.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 115


  • Continuing a walk along St. Stephens Green to its north side, we turn down

    Dawson Street. On the right hand side is the Mansion House, the official residence

    of the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Next door in No. 19 is the Royal Irish Academy,

    founded in 1785 to promote the study of science, polite literature, and antiquities.

    It has served these ideals well for over two centuries. It has established National

    Committees in many branches of knowledge, and acts as the channel to facilitate

    Irelands adherence to many international bodies, such as the International Union

    of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP). It organizes conferences, public lectures,

    debates, and study groups on a wide variety of topics. The antiquities that it col-

    lected were given to the nation in 1890 for the National Museum of Ireland. The

    Academy Library contains a valuable collection of books, pamphlets, and ancient

    Irish manuscripts. It is open to the public during normal office hours.

    Turning right from Dawson Street into Molesworth Street, one approaches

    Leinster House, home of the Parliament of Ireland (an Oireachtas). From 1815 to

    1922, this was the headquarters of the Royal Dublin Society, which established

    many national cultural institutes nearby. On the right is the archaeological and

    historical section of the National Museum, which contains the Treasury, a col-

    lection of outstanding examples of metal-workers skills from 200 BC to 1100 AD.

    Adjacent to the entrance to Leinster House on Kildare Street is the National

    Library, a fine building holding many archives and treasures drawn from Irelands

    literary and historical heritage, but little of specific interest to physicists. Nearby is

    the elegant headquarters of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (built in

    1864), which has tributes to many outstanding Dublin physicians. Making ones

    way back along Nassau Street to the front of Trinity College, we might make a

    short excursion up to 5658 Dawson Street to Hodges Figgis, Irelands leading

    specialist book shop since 1768. Further on at the corner of Nassau and Grafton

    Street was for many years the site of the Yeates family business which manufac-

    tured and supplied a variety of scientific instruments. Returning back to Trinity

    College, one passes the Provosts House, built in the eighteenth century by Provost

    Francis Andrews, who also founded the Andrews chair of astronomy that exists to

    this day. William Rowan Hamilton (figure 12), of quaternion fame, occupied this

    chair from 1827, at the tender age of 21, to 1865. This completes Tour 1.

    Second Tour

    Starting at the main entrance with our backs toward Trinity College and facing

    Dame Street, we now move away from the center of the city of Dublin into its

    more peripheral areas, which are also rich in scientific culture and history. We

    enter College Green, where we face the edifice of the Old Irish Parliament

    Building (figure 13), built in the neo-classical style, which housed from the early

    1780s what was called Grattans Parliament. The flowering of Dublin as a leading

    city of arts and culture came to an end after the 1798 rebellion and the intro-

    duction of the Act of Union of 1800. Rule for Ireland was thereby centralized to

    116 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • London for over 120 years. The Irish Parliament had housed both a House of

    Commons and Lords. Many Irish landowning aristocrats had palatial town houses

    in the city to allow them take up their seats in the House of Lords. These resident

    aristocrats brought elegance and a spirit of civic pride to the city. After the Act of

    Union, they decamped to London and the development of arts and sciences which

    had marked the second half of the eighteenth century in Dublin came to an end.

    The building is now home to the Bank of Ireland, and has been since the Bank

    bought the magnificent Parliament building in the early 1800s. The House of Lords

    is open to the public and provides an insight into the splendor of the age.

    Leaving the Parliament Building and proceeding up Dame Street, we reach

    City Hall (figure 14), once the Royal Exchange and now the home of Dublin City

    Council, the center of Dublins local administration. The Dublin City Council was

    for many years referred to as Dublin Corporation, or by Dubliners as the Corpo,

    and is housed in a neoclassical building, the preferred architectural style of eigh-

    teenth-century Dublin. The Corporation was responsible for the orderly

    administration of the Capitals local government, making by-laws for the benefit of

    the citizens. The Corporation fostered the development of the practical use of

    science in the city. It appointed a Public Analyst in 1862one of the first three

    such positions in the UK and Ireland, the others being London and Birmingham.

    The first Public Analyst was Sir Charles Cameron (18301921). In the late nine-

    teenth century, Dublin had the distinction of having the highest death rate in

    Europe. The death rate from infectious diseases was nine per 1000 in 1879. By

    Fig. 12. William Rowan Hamilton (18051865). Credit: Professor Denis Weaire.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 117

  • 1900, this had dropped to one per 1000. The slums of the city of Dublin were

    among the worst in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The

    drop in the death rate has been credited to Sir Charles Cameron and advances in

    public hygiene. He was a true polymath, a medical doctor, a professor of chemistry

    and natural philosophy at various Dublin medical colleges, and a father of the use

    of chemistry in agriculture; he was also a statistician and a founding member of the

    Royal Institute of Public Health. Concurrent with his medical work, he also per-

    formed chemical experiments; in 1857, he proved that the nitrogen from plants

    could be wholly derived from urea.

    Just across the cobbles from Dublin City Hall is the pristine whiteness of the

    Newcomen Bank. This building was designed by the famous Irish architect Tho-

    mas Ivory (17321786) and now houses the Rates section of Dublin City Council.

    Born in Cork and apprenticed initially to a carpenter, Ivory completed his

    apprenticeship in Dublin. There he was drawn to architecture, his master in this

    subject being a certain Jonas Blaymire (d. 1763), a surveyor, measurer, and

    technical draftsman. After his training, Ivory was recognized as the preeminent

    draftsman in Dublin. Such was his skill that he was selected by the Dublin Society

    as the headmaster of the Societys drawing school, where twenty indigent boys

    were trained in the principles of geometry, rules of perspective, and elements of

    architecture. His most notable pupil was James Hoban (c. 17581831), who

    became apprenticed to Ivory between approximately 1779 and 1785 and was later

    renowned as the architect of the White House in Washington, DC.

    We now reach Dublin Castle (figure 15), sequestered in its own grounds, the

    center of the English administration of Ireland until Irish independence. This was

    the royal residence in Ireland, where a court attended on the Viceroy of Ireland.

    This was a center of intrigue, espionage, rebellion, establishment, power, and

    Fig. 13. The Old Irish Parliament Building. Source: http://www.politics.ie/forum/culture-


    118 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.


  • treason, whose roots are ancient, beginning in Norman times (1204) as part of the

    fortification of the city of Dublin. Today these public buildings house the State

    Apartments, including St. Patricks Hall, where the Irish President is inaugurated.

    Conference facilities established here are used particularly when Ireland has the

    presidency of the EU. Many international science conferences have been hosted


    Fig. 14. Dublin City Hall. Credit: Failte Ireland Imagery.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 119

  • Dublin Castle is currently home to three museums: An Garda Siochana (Police)

    Museum, the Revenue Museum, and the Chester Beatty Library. The Revenue

    Museum is interesting for its exposition of the scientific method employed by

    excise officials in ascertaining the volume present in alcohol from early times. This

    Fig. 15. Dublin Castle. Source: http://www.travelsinireland.com/dublin/castle.htm.

    120 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.


  • museum also shows audiovisual displays of scientific testing for the presence of

    drugs and adulterated diesel. The museum outlines the development of the col-

    lection of taxes in Ireland from Viking times to the present day, where one of the

    most successful online tax collection systems in the world is in existence. The

    museum emphasizes the mathematical abilities of the Revenue officials of the late

    nineteenth and early twentieth century, who were required to have great facility

    with mathematics and an ability to rapidly compute quite complex calculations.

    Some of the measuring and scientific equipment utilized by Revenue is on display.

    Leaving the museum, we are reminded of Benjamin Franklins comment that in

    this world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes.

    The Chester Beatty Library (figure 16) is one of the most important manuscript

    collections in the world. The eponymous donor (18751968), an Irish American

    mining engineer and copper magnate, gave a spectacular collection of Arabic and

    Oriental manuscripts, as well as early European works, to Ireland. The Arabic

    collection contains manuscripts of Arabic science, some dating back as far as the

    ninth century AD. These ancient texts are important in that they provide a bridge

    between the Renaissance and the science of the classical world. These texts

    include a treatise on surgery by Al Zahrawi, the greatest medieval surgeon of the

    Islamic world, and an encyclopedia of medicine by Ibn Sina that provides a

    complete system of medicine according to the principles of Hippocrates and

    Galen. There are texts from the House of Wisdom in Baghdad which collected,

    Fig. 16. The Chester Beatty Library. Source: http://www.geograph.ie/photo/1839693.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 121


  • translated, and interpreted Greek, Persian, and Indian texts. The collection also

    includes early European printed books of scientific interest, for example, On

    Military Matters by Roberto Valtarion (14131489), the first printed book with

    technical or scientific illustrations. In addition, the collection houses very early

    fragments of the Bible.

    Leaving Dublin Castle by the gate we entered, we progress up Dame Street to

    be greeted by the sight of Christ Church Cathedral (figure 17). We are now in the

    heart of the medieval capital of Dublin, first populated as a Viking stronghold.

    Beside the ecclesiastical buildings of Christchurch are the Dublin Civic Offices

    modern buildings built over Wood Quay, the center of Viking Dublin. The

    technology of the Vikings reached its apex in their seafaring ability and one of the

    largest Viking Longships in existence was recovered in Denmark near Roskilde in

    1962. Named Skuldelev 2, it was built of Irish oak somewhere near Dublin and has

    been dated to 1042. The way the ship was built and shaped allowed for speeds of

    up to 28 km/hr and had a crew of 60. The shipwrights of Dublin were greatly

    skilled in this era, possessing a great understanding of the dynamics of sea travel

    and able to design oceangoing ships to cope with the harsh climatic conditions of

    the northern seas.

    We are now in a supremely historic part of Dublin. The Cathedral was founded

    by Dunan, the first Bishop of Dublin, and King Sitric Silkbeard around 1030 AD.

    Fig. 17. Christ Church Cathedral. Source: http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christ_Church_Cathedral,_


    122 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.


  • It contains the tomb of Strongbow, the Norman conquerer of part of Ireland. Here

    the pretender Lambert Simnel was crowned and Mass was said for King James II

    of England before the battle of the Boyne. In 1742, just around the corner on

    Fishamble Street, Handels Messiah was performed for the first time by the

    cathedral choir. The Cathedral is linked to the Dublinia exhibition, which brings

    Viking and medieval Dublin to life.

    Past Christ Church on the left is the Tailors Hall, the last of the medieval guild

    halls left in the city of Dublin. Established in 1706, the hall was the meeting place

    of the Guild of Merchant Tailors from 1706 to 1841. It is now the headquarters of

    An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland. An Taisce was founded in 1948 by

    Robert Lloyd Praeger, one of Irelands preeminent naturalists. By profession an

    engineer, by inclination a naturalist, he was responsible for the organization of the

    Clare Island Survey in 1909, whose multidisciplinary approach was the first of its

    kind in the world, linking the local geology and archeology to the biology of the

    area. An Taisce helps support the protection of Irelands scientific heritage.

    Also in this area is the oldest church in Dublin, St. Audoens, which is on the

    same side as Christ Church Cathedral and was the medieval parish church of

    Dublin, today a museum. Cornmarket, just adjacent, was once the location of the

    Public Analysts Laboratory. Beside St Audeons Church lie the remains of the

    medieval walls of Dublin. Proceeding down Thomas Street from Cornmarket we

    come to the Liberties, an area of Dublin once populated by the artisan class,

    including weavers. Dublin was indeed once renowned for its craftspersons and

    artisans. In the eighteenth century it was well known for clockmaking, and this

    tradition branched out into the development of world-class scientific instruments.

    Families involved in this trade included the Lynches, the Masons, and the Yeates.

    About 2.8 km from where we are now was the factory of Thomas Grubb

    (18001878) and his son Howard Grubb (18441931), Irelands most important

    scientific instrument makers. The company was at the cutting edge of the devel-

    opment of optical instruments. Innovations for large telescopes devised by

    Thomas Grubb included clock-driven polar mounts. In 1845, the company assisted

    in the construction of a 72-inch Leviathan telescope for the third Earl of Rosse

    (18001867) at Birr Castle in County Offaly, then called Kings County. It was the

    largest telescope in the world until 1917 and assisted Lord Rosses discovery of the

    Whirlpool Nebula.

    Walking down Thomas Street, we pass the Johns Lane Church on the right and

    St. Catherines Church on the left before arriving at the Guinness brewery. For

    generations, Guinness has been a symbol of Dublin; indeed, the black pint with the

    foamy head could be classified as the national beverage. The brewery was founded

    here at St. James Gate in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, a brewer from County Kildare,

    The brewery became one of the largest industrial premises in Ireland, with its own

    interior tram line. By the early twentieth century, Guinness also had a scientific

    team in its employ. Perhaps the most famous scientist to work in the Guinness

    factory was William S. Gosset (18761937), who earned a degree in chemistry at

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 123

  • Oxford and joined the factory in 1889. His work for Guinness led him to investigate

    the statistical value of results obtained from small samples, and he went on to

    develop the Student-t test or distribution. His work fostered the concept of

    quality control. He also independently discovered the Poisson distribution while

    dealing with yeast cells, showing its application to biological processes.

    At the bottom of Thomas Street we turn right, following the tram lines of the

    Luas, Dublins light rail system, past the gates of St Patricks Hospital. This

    institution was founded by Jonathan Swift, who left a bequest in his will for its

    establishment. It was one of the first hospitals specifically built to house psychiatric

    patients in the world. In Verses on the Death of Dr. Swift, the Irish satirist

    foretastes his own death:

    He gave the little Wealth he had,

    To build a House for Fools and Mad:

    And shewd by one satyric Touch,

    No Nation wanted it so muchToday it is still in use as a teaching hospital, attached to Trinity College. One of its

    most eminent Professors was Dr. Anthony Clare, the voice for many years of the

    BBC scientific program QED.

    At the bottom of the hill is Dr. Steevens Hospital, another edifice of the

    Golden Age of Irish Medicine, from 1750 to 1850. The physicist John Joly, a

    governor of the Hospital, pioneered the method of extracting radium and using it

    to treat cancer. He was instrumental in using long hollow needles for deep

    radiotherapy, called the Dublin method, which was eventually used worldwide.

    The hospital was also the site of the first X-ray in Ireland, performed by Richard

    McCausland in 1895.

    The hospitals Worth Library was donated by a prominent Irish physician, Dr.

    Edward Worth. Housed in Dr Steevens Hospital in a specially provided room, it

    contains a magnificent collection of scientific books, including a first edition of the

    Sceptical Chemist, Robert Boyles plea to early chemists to conduct experi-

    ments. The book outlined his hypotheses that matter consisted of atoms and

    clusters of atoms in motion. There are only thirty-five copies of this edition

    extant. Boyle, an Irishman and son of the Earl of Cork, is known as the father of

    chemistry and was the originator of Boyles Law. Other books in the collection

    include Isaac Newtons Principia. Worth collected not one but two copies of this

    book, a copy of the second edition printed at Cambridge in 1713 and a copy of the

    third edition printed in London in 1726. The Worth collection highlights the

    interest of Dubliners in the new scientific discoveries of the late seventeenth and

    early eighteenth centuries. The library also contains copies of the first English and

    Latin editions of Opticks by Newton, a first edition of Newtons Arithmetica

    Universalis, commentaries on Newtons works, and works by Galileo.

    Opposite the eighteenth century building of Dr. Steevens Hospital is the

    nineteenth-century terminus of the Great Southern Railway, which links the cities

    of Dublin and Cork and all places between, with branching lines to Limerick,

    124 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • Waterford, Killarney, and Tralee. The railway revolution in Ireland owes much to

    William Dargan (figure 18, 17991867) the son of a small tenant farmer from the

    borders of County Carlow and County Laois who became a surveyor. He was the

    contractor primarily responsible for the construction of the first commercial line

    between Dublins city center and Kingstown port (now Dun Laoghaire), which

    commenced in 1831. Having a great aptitude for mathematics, Dargon was

    apprenticed to a surveyor and completed his education in England. He was

    involved with George Stephensons pioneering Rocket project and worked with

    the civil engineer Thomas Telford on developing the Holyhead Road. He became

    an immensely successful railway contractor in Ireland, and by 1853 had been

    responsible for 600 miles of railway.

    Dargan was also a philanthropist who sought to develop an interest in sci-

    ence and technology in Ireland. He helped establish the National Gallery of

    Ireland and to fund the Dublin Industrial Exhibition of 1853 held at the Royal

    Dublin Society. This exhibition, Irelands response to the Great Exhibition of

    1851 in London, sought to showcase Irelands industrial development. Dargan

    became a very wealthy man and was regarded as a generous and fair employer,

    though he eventually lost most of his wealth through poor investment and ill


    We now progress across an iron bridge that carries the Luas light rail system.

    The bridge was designed by George Papworth and construction was completed in

    1828. The iron castings for the bridge were produced at the Royal Phoenix Iron

    Fig. 18. William Dargan (17991867). Source: http://rds-speaker-series-fergus-mulligan-heritage-william-/E0-001-060631847-0.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 125

  • Works of nearby Parkgate Street. It was initially named Kingsbridge to com-

    memorate a visit of King George IV, but was renamed Heuston Bridge after an

    Irish patriot of the 1916 uprising. Heuston Station is now regarded as one of the

    citys finest buildings.

    Phoenix Park is the headquarters of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland, which is

    situated at Montague House, toward the Parkgate Street entrance to the Park.

    Phoenix Park is a magnificent public space that was once the Kings Deer Park. It

    now houses Aras an Uachtarain, the Irish Presidents residence, as well as a zoo

    that is the fifth oldest in the world, as well as numerous sports and leisure facilities.

    The office of Ordnance Survey, initially attached to the military, was created to

    survey the whole of Ireland to update land valuations. The survey was carried out

    at a scale of 6 inches to 1 mile, completed in 1846 under the direction of Major

    General Colby. Ireland thus became the first country in the world to be mapped at

    such a detailed scale. In the course of surveying the country, the Office was

    responsible for a number of advances in surveying practice.

    One early recruit to the Ordnance Survey was the aforementioned John Tyn-

    dall, but he appears to have worked not in Dublin but in Youghal and Kinsale in

    Cork, then moved to Preston in England (18411842). There he studied at night at

    the local mechanics institute. He completed his PhD in Marburg, Germany under

    Robert Bunsen. He returned to England and through his brilliance at lecturing and

    teaching was appointed to the professorship at the Royal Institution, succeeding to

    the post held by Michael Faraday. His major scientific interest was the interaction

    of light with matter, particularly gases, and he explained why the sky is blue. He

    developed the first double beam spectrophotometer as well as a light pipe, a

    precursor to optical fibers. Tyndall also made some of the first studies of atmo-

    spheric pollution in London, and developed with Louis Pasteur a form of food

    purification known as tyndallisation.

    While on this looped walk back to the city center, we will not have ventured

    into the suburbs. Yet at the end of the Phoenix Park lies the suburb of Cas-

    tleknock, and some 5 km from Parkgate Street is the observatory at Dunsink

    (figure 19), the first building built exclusively for science in Ireland. This was the

    observatory of Trinity College and the home of the Astronomer Royal for

    Ireland; it houses a Grubb telescope now operated by the Dublin Institute of

    Advanced Studies (DIAS). The most famous professor of astronomy to be based

    and live here was William Rowan Hamilton (18051864), who introduced the

    terms scalar and vector to mathematics and invented quaternions. On

    October 16, 1843, while crossing Broom Bridge (figure 20) in the nearby suburb

    of Cabra, the idea for quaternions came to Hamilton, who carved the basic

    formula into the bridges stone foundations; the event is commemorated with a

    plaque on the bridge and an annual walk from Dunsink. This moment of

    inspiration and bold inscription might serve as a fitting close to our walks

    through Dublin.

    126 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

  • Fig. 19. The observatory at Dunsink. Source: http://ingeniousireland.ie.

    Fig. 20. The Broom Bridge. Source: http://curvebank.calstatela.edu/hamilton/hamilton.htm.

    Vol. 16 (2014) Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists Labyrinth 127


  • Acknowledgements

    Dr. Thomas C. OConnor died on November 6, 2012, leaving this manuscript

    nearly complete. Some editing work was done by Martine OConnor, Christopher

    Noonan, and Miguel DeArce. Professor Denis Weaire, of the Department of

    Physics, Trinity College Dublin, kindly provided many of the illustrations. We are

    also grateful to Failte Ireland and Tourism Ireland Imagery for the illustrations

    referring to the city of Dublin. Finally, the editors are grateful to Edward Sweeney

    of The National Institute for Transport & Logistics (NITL), who took the time not

    only to read the manuscript with care, but also to follow out the routes, noting

    corrections where necessary.

    References1 For the academic history of Trinity College, we recommend R. B. McDowell and D.A. Webb,

    Trinity College Dublin 1592-1952: An Academic History (Dublin: Trinity College Dublin Press,

    2004).2 For a new focus on the development of science in Ireland under the Union see Nicholas Smyth

    Science, Colonialism, and Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press 1999).3 For the complex early development of the Catholic University of Ireland after John Henry

    Newman, see Thomas J. Morrissey. Towards a National University: William Delaney SJ (1835

    1924) (Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1988).4 For insight into the complex relationships between the Royal Dublin Society and Trinity College

    in the early 1830s, when both institutions were vying for support from the British Government for

    technical education in Ireland, see Norman MacMillan, ed., Prometheuss Fire: A History of

    Scientific and Technical Education in Ireland (Dublin: Tyndall Publications, 2000).5 A scholarly evaluation of John Tyndalls impact on natural philosophy and modern physics can

    be found in William Brock, Norman MacMillan and Charles Mollan, ed., John Tyndall: Essays on

    a Natural Philosopher (Dublin: Royal Dublin Society, 1981).6 Denis Weaire, Experimental Physics at Trinity College. In H. Holland H., ed., Trinity College

    Dublin: The Idea of a University (Dublin: TCD Press, 1992).

    128 T. C. OConnor Phys. Perspect.

    Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicists LabyrinthAbstractHistorical SettingEarly HistoryIntellectual Life in DublinDevelopments in Higher EducationJohn Tyndalls Apology and a Delayed ReplyFirst TourSecond TourAcknowledgementsReferences