1. Links with French radicalism in the 1790s, which tended to be via the Royal Dublin Society rather than via the Universities; a key topic was the chemistry of oxygen.
2. Railways and Ireland: The layout of the Irish rail network tended to be dominated by military considerations: all the junctions in the West were associated with military barracks.
3. The Shannon navigation was pioneered in the 1850s by William Mulvany who designed and partially completed the Shannon navigation, on a generous scale, and then went into political exile to Germany (he was a Fenian supporter), where he canalised the Ruhr, laying the basis for German industrial supremacy based on the cheap movement of coal and steel.
4. The Fenians and the Holland submarine: The first effective modern submarine was conceived in Ireland by John Holland, in a Fenian context, and then developed with exile Fenian support, being eventually sold to the US Government.
5. The peat saga: The development of peat as an industrial fuel was pioneered in Ireland by Purser Griffith before the first world war; it was taken up with Irish government support in the 1940s and '50s, using technology developed in the USSR in the 1920s and '30s. Ireland, Russia and Finland are the big 3 in peat technology.
6. The Irish scientific elite (particularly Fitzgerald) and Parnellite Home Rule: There was always some tension between those who saw the Empire as an opportunity and those who looked to Irish national independence; this took a complex form in the scientific world; Fitzgerald was imperial-minded and Unionist, but is revered as the founding father of technological education in Dublin, laying the basis for subsequent Irish independence.
7. Early electrification and the transition to the ESB: Most early electrical schemes were innovative local landowners supplying local small-town markets; the first in Carlow was opened by Parnell in the 1880s. These schemes were however mostly wiped out by the State development of the national electrical grid in the later 1920s, based on the Shannon hydro-scheme.
8. Electric traction and the Drumm battery. In the 1930s a creditible attempt was made to electrify the Dublin suburban railways using an innovative battery system which could be charged quickly. This worked for a while, but fell foul of the then powerful steam lobby in the established railway system. The project deserves an objective historical assessment; maybe it was premature.
There is enough material here to fill several periodicals, along with abstracts and bibliographies of the various scattered monographs which are on record. Such a compendium would make available for schools and colleges a source book of Irish scientific culture to help fill a disastrous gap in our national consciousness.
- Irish meetings of the British Association
- Social Composition of Irish Participants in British Association Meetings in Ireland
Last modified 11 January 2006