Inventions and Inventors

We celebrate Irish writers and artists, musicians and athletes. We should also celebrate Irish inventors - over the centuries, they have given the world many useful inventions. Our contributions range from major ones such as the steam turbine and the induction coil, to minor ones such as perforated stamps and the rug-maker's latch-hook needle.

We have produced military inventions and medical ones, as well as transport and tourism innovations. The electron was 'invented' and named by Irish physicist George Johnstone Stoney, and a new form of algebra was invented by Dublin physicist William Rowan Hamilton (quaternions). And though Ireland is not noted for its cuisine, we have also given the world several edible inventions.

Chemistry and Electricity

In the 1830s, the modern induction coil and a powerful and cheap new battery were invented by an unusual Catholic priest from Co Louth. Rev Nicholas Callan (1799-1864) was professor of natural philosophy at the Catholic training college, St Patrick's College Maynooth. His work spanned physics and chemistry: as well as his battery and the induction coil, he invented a way of protecting metals from corrosion and made it into the Encyclopaedia Britannica when he built what was then the world's most powerful electromagnet. Images: (right) Callan's induction coil incorporated miles of wiring and could generate an estimated 600,000 volts (left) An original Maynooth battery ( National Science Museum, Maynooth)

National Science Museum, Maynooth
Chemistry and Electricity
National Science Museum, Maynooth

Chemistry and Electricity

In the 1830s, the modern induction coil and a powerful and cheap new battery were invented by an unusual Catholic priest from Co Louth. Rev Nicholas Callan (1799-1864) was professor of natural philosophy at the Catholic training college, St Patrick's College Maynooth. His work spanned physics and chemistry: as well as his battery and the induction coil, he invented a way of protecting metals from corrosion and made it into the Encyclopaedia Britannica when he built what was then the world's most powerful electromagnet. Images: (right) Callan's induction coil incorporated miles of wiring and could generate an estimated 600,000 volts (left) An original Maynooth battery ( National Science Museum, Maynooth)

National Science Museum, Maynooth
Enlarge image

The Steam Turbine

This invention changed the world: it revolutionised marine transport and naval warfare and made cheap and plentiful electricity supplies possible. Power stations still use turbine generators based on the principle - were it not for the turbine, we would still be using, gas lighting and gas-powered appliances. The turbine was the brainchild of Sir Charles Parsons (1854-1931), from Birr Castle. It was significantly more efficient than conventional steam engines: instead of using the steam to drive pistons, Parsons used it to turn a rotor directly. The design was ideal returning dynamos, and power stations quickly spotted the potential. Turbine-powered ships, such as the Turbinia (pictured above), revolutionised transport at sea.

Image: Alfred John West (1857-1937)
The Steam Turbine
Image: Alfred John West (1857-1937)

The Steam Turbine

This invention changed the world: it revolutionised marine transport and naval warfare and made cheap and plentiful electricity supplies possible. Power stations still use turbine generators based on the principle - were it not for the turbine, we would still be using, gas lighting and gas-powered appliances. The turbine was the brainchild of Sir Charles Parsons (1854-1931), from Birr Castle. It was significantly more efficient than conventional steam engines: instead of using the steam to drive pistons, Parsons used it to turn a rotor directly. The design was ideal returning dynamos, and power stations quickly spotted the potential. Turbine-powered ships, such as the Turbinia (pictured above), revolutionised transport at sea.

Image: Alfred John West (1857-1937)
Enlarge image

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