Famous Irish Scientists

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  • Science

There are many famous Irish scientists. For a full list you can look at the adult section of this website Science and Technology. We will just pick out a few here:

Robert Boyle (1627 – 1691) was from Lismore, Co. Waterford. He said that all matter (or ‘stuff’) is made up of tiny particles joined together, that it is not continuous. He also studied the pressure of gases, and there is a famous ‘Boyle’s Law’ named after him.

Francis Beaufort (1774 – 1857) was from Navan, Co. Meath. He invented a table for describing the force of a wind. It goes from Force 0 (calm) to Force 12 (a hurricane). This is called the ‘Beaufort Scale’.

John Tyndall (1820 – 1893), from Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow, explained why the sky is blue.

Lord Kelvin
(William Thomson) (1824 – 1907), from Belfast , investigated ‘Heat’ and there is a famous Kelvin temperature scale called after him. The Kelvin scale is also called the Absolute scale (You and I use the Celsius scale but scientists use the Kelvin scale).

Mary Ward (1827 – 1869) was from Birr, Co. Offaly and then lived in Strangford, Co. Down. She was a famous writer on the use of the microscope; she used it mainly to study plants.

Courtesy of National Science & Engineering Plaques Committee

Guiglielmo Marconi
(1874 – 1937) developed the radiotelegraph to send signals across the Atlantic Ocean to America in 1901. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1909. His mother was Irish and his father was Italian.

Example of an X-Ray Molecule

Kathleen Lonsdale (1903 – 1971) was born in Newbridge, Co. Kildare, and moved later to England. She made important discoveries about the shapes of molecules using X-Rays. She was sent to a boys’ school to learn Science because it was not taught to girls then! She was the only girl there!

Ernest Walton (1903 - 1995 ) was born in Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics – for ‘splitting the atom’ (with another scientist Sir John Cockroft). Up until then scientists thought that the atom was the smallest thing possible and could not be split.

Eleanor Maguire (1970 - ) is a Dublin-born scientist. She uses brain scanners to try to understand how the brain allows us to find our way around without getting lost, and to remember the things that happen to us along the way. She won a big science prize, the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award, in London in 2008 for her memory research, where she is now developing ways of using brain scanners to read people’s minds.