Heavens above! Birthplace of astronomer Lady Margaret Huggins

One of the pioneers of astrophysics was born here in 1848, Margaret Lindsay Murray, and a plaque on the wall honours her.  Murray went on to marry a noted English astronomer, Sir William Huggins, and for 30 years they collaborated together, laying the foundations for modern astrophysics. Working at Sir William’s private observatory in London, this astronomical couple studied the composition of starlight and supernovae, using spectroscopy to identify the elements present in the stars. Margaret was interested in astronomy from a young age, and friendly with the renowned telescope maker, Sir Howard Grubb, who introduced her to William Huggins. The Huggins’s won acclaim and many honours for their work […]

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Kathleen Lonsdale lecturing in Dublin, Image courtesy DIAS

Birthplace of Kathleen Lonsdale

A world class pioneer of x-ray crystallography was born in Charlotte House here in Newbridge, in 1903.  Dame Kathleen Lonsdale (née Yardley) even has a rare form of diamond named after her.  A plaque on the house honours her contribution to science. Skilled in mathematics, physics and chemistry, Lonsdale was a talented experimentalist who used x-rays to peer into the structure of chemicals.  She was the first to solve the structure of many important molecules, including benzene (her work proved it was a flat ring).  Lonsdaleite, a rare form of diamond found in meteorite impacts, is named in her honour. Lonsdale led a most interesting life! Born in Ireland, the […]

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Flying boat museum

Foynes is home to a wonderful museum of transport, social, and engineering history, and well worth a visit. It’s also where that famous Irish chemical mix was first concocted, the Irish coffee. Hard to believe now, but this small port on the Shannon estuary was the European terminus for transatlantic flights in the early days of international air travel.  World politicians, international film stars, and the first regular transatlantic air mail service all came through here. The planes that landed here were “flying boats” or aquaplanes, capable of landing and taking off on the Shannon estuary, that served as a wonderful long runway. Foynes was ideal for a transatlantic seaplane […]

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Marconi in 1901 with early radio equipment

First ever sports radio transmission 1898

An historic sports radio transmission took place in Dun Laoghaire (or Kingstown, was it was then called) in July 1898, during the annual sailing regatta. Thick fog obscured the view for spectators on the shore.  However, the Irish-Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi was in a boat out in the bay, with his newfangled transmission equipment.  This was all a part of his attempts to demonstrate the usefuless — and commercial potential — of his radio invention.   Back on shore, in the harbour master’s house, some radio receiving equipment was temporarily installed.  The receiver was provided by a noted physicist from Trinity College Dublin, George Francis FitzGerald. Who’s winning? The sailing […]

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Common dolphins at Derrynane. Photo (c) Vincent Hyland

Derrynane Marine Education Centre

Derrynane in Kenmare Bay can boast a rich biodiversity, and it’s a great place to visit any time of the year.  Well known as the former home of historic Irish politician and agitator, Daniel ‘The Liberator’ O’Connell, it’s now home to several rare and endangered habitats and species including the Natterjack Toad, Kerry Lily and the Kerry Slug. Other protected species such as Shearwaters nest on its offshore islands, and the waters here are visited by basking shark, whales and dolphins.  This special area of conservation is  also the only area in Ireland where the Northern Sea fan grows. Explore Derrynane The Derrynane Marine Education Centre, run by award-winning wildlife photographer Vincent Hyland, offers coastal wildlife […]

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Marine science zone at Galway City Museum

A wonderful ‘steam punk’ submarine, a dark room full of glowing plankton, and a game that teaches you about litter carried in ocean currents… just some of the exhibits you can play with at the SeaScience Zone in Galway’s lovely city museum. The gallery of hands-on, interactive exhibits is aimed mostly at children, but adults will also enjoy it.  We particularly enjoyed the ‘steam punk’ submarine, built by a local artist, and the glowing room that demonstrates how bioluminescence works. It’s a collaboration between the museum and NUIG’s Ryan Institute for Marine science, and will be a semipermanent gallery in the museum. The museum is beside the Corrib estuary at […]

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1864: Burial place of George Boole

On December 8, 1864, the great mathematician and logician George Boole died at his home in Blackrock, Cork.  The man who is acknowledged as ‘the founder of pure mathematics’, had succumbed to a chest infection which he caught a couple of weeks beforehand, after he had walked 3 miles in heavy rain to give a lecture.  He was buried a few days later, in his local churchyard, St Michaels Church of Ireland.  His funeral cortege was followed by serried ranks of students in sombre gowns. His simple gravestone reads: ‘George Boole, Died December 8 1864’ A more elaborate stained glass window in his memory can be seen in the church, and another […]

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Gunpowder, corn and oil: Clondalkin’s historic mills

Clondalkin has a long history of milling from the early 1700s, that includes everything from gunpowder to oil and corn meal.  And the ruins of several of these mills can still be seen in and around the local parks, especially Corkagh Park. The story probably starts on October 7th, 1717, when Nicholas Gruber was granted a licence for a powder (explosives) mill, one of the first such in Ireland.  Several more powder mills were added down the years, all around Kilmatead, in what was then a reasonably remote area, for safety reasons. One of the mills was the scene of a major explosion in 1787, and the shock was felt […]

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Dublin’s first skin disease hospital, Moore St

In 1818, an Irish doctor, Dr William Wallace, opened a hospital for treating skin diseases at No. 20 Moore Street, Dublin. This was, according to Wallace, not only the first such establishment solely dedicated to the treatment of skin diseases in Ireland but also in the British Empire of the time, which spread across the world. In the population boom and economic crash following the Act of Union in 1800, conditions were ideal in Dublin for the spread of skin diseases, with hundreds of half-starved people crowded together in tenements with few facilities for washing or clean cooking. As well as obvious diseases such as scabies, ringworm, lice infestation, anthrax, tuberculosis […]

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Outside Dublin Zoo circa 1890s

Dublin Zoo: for ‘Useful information and innocent amusement’

Dublin Zoo is one of Ireland’s most popular attractions, yet when it opened in 1831, it had just one wild boar! The idea for a ‘zoological garden’ in the city began when several gentlemen, Earls and other Dublin worthies met the previous year, and agreed to establish a zoo in Dublin to “provide useful information and innocent amusement… for those who have not the benefit of travel”. A site in the Phoenix Park was donated by the Lord Lieutenant, and on September 1st 1831, the gardens opened . . . with just one wild boar.  By the following year, however, it could boast : 47 mammals (15 of them monkeys), […]

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