Ask most people what they think are Ireland’s greatest contributions to the world and they would probably come up with suggestions such as great music, great writers and great food. It’s unlikely that scientists would be high on the list, but Ireland has given us many great inventors, innovators & scientists. Their work covers a broad spectrum from developing medical treatments to pioneering new technologies and revolutionizing the way we work, rest and play. This month, we want to celebrate the Irish natives that have achieved greatness in the scientific field and highlight those achievements which have made such an impact on our modern world.
Robert Boyle is known as being one of the original modern chemists and made many key contributions in the scientific revolution of the 1600’s. He said that all matter is made up of tiny particles joined together, that it is not continuous. His most famous discovery, which examined the pressure-volume relationship in laboratory conditions, now bears his name (Boyle’s Law) and was to prove fundamental to our understanding of gases and atmospheric pressure.
William Thompson is also known as Lord Kelvin is noted for his infamous curiosity & investigation of heat. His interest in the measurement of temperature and thermodynamics led to his creation of the absolute scale of temperature- The Kelvin Scale or Absolute Scale. This scale is still used today by scientists across the world.
In 1932, Earnest Walton in collaboration with John Cockcroft, became the first people in history to artificially split the atom, thus ushering the nuclear age. Up until their discovery of ‘splitting the atom’, scientists thought that the atom was the smallest thing possible and could not be split. In 1951 they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics – making Walton Ireland’s first and only Nobel science laureate.
Throughout the centuries, Ireland has proven itself to be a nation filled with innovation, producing many successful engineers that have revolutionized the way we live. From the hypodermic needle to the perforated stamp, their contributions have made a lasting impact in the military, medical, transportation and tourism fields.
John Philip Holland is accredited with being the inventor of the modern submarine. He had a keen interest in science and was inspired by the book 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This inspiration led him to wonder the possibility of constructing submersible boats. In 1898 the Holland submarine was launched. Armed with one torpedo tube and a pneumatic gun, his innovation changed military tactics worldwide.
The first hypodermic needle was created in Dublin’s Mental Health hospital in 1844. Physician Francis Rynd improvised the needle & hypodermic injection in order to give a local anesthetic to a woman who was suffering with an agonizing pain in her face.
The modern tractor was invented by an innovative self-taught mechanic, Harry Ferguson deemed the “Mad Mechanic”. It was lighter, more effective and safer than earlier tractors, and helped to revolutionize farming. Ferguson also invented four-wheel-drive, anti-skid braking, and was the first Irish man to fly in 1909.
Another Irish invention includes perforated stamps, invented in the 1850s by a Dublin printer, Henry Archer – before then, each stamp had to be cut from a sheet.
Ireland’s scientific achievements are being honored & celebrated this year as Dublin was chosen to be the European City of Science for 2012. The scientific celebration kicks off during Dublin’s famous St. Patrick’s Festival. The St. Patrick’s Day parade will feature floats & displays seeking to answer some of science’s most engaging questions, such as “How is a rainbow formed?”, “What makes the weather change?”, and “How is electricity made?” The City of Science title will remain throughout the year and will globally recognize Ireland for all of their scientific accomplishments.