Trinity’s Old Library gets first statues to honour four trailblazing women

2 Feb 2023

From left: TCD head of university art collections and curator Catherine Giltrap, TCD Provost Linda Doyle and librarian Helen Shenton, next to a sculpture of Rosalind Franklin by artist Vera Klute. Image: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

DNA unraveller Rosalind Franklin and mathematician Ada Lovelace are among the four women whose statues are being displayed in the Trinity Long Room, which previously only contained busts of men.

In its first batch of sculptures to be commissioned in more than a century, Trinity College Dublin has installed statues of historical women for the first time in its Old Library.

The new busts are being displayed in the University’s historic Long Room, alongside 40 other marble sculptures. Before this new commission, all the statues were of men such as Homer, Shakespeare, Sir Rowan Hamilton and Wolfe Tone.

Among the new statues is a bust of Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering British chemist and X-ray crystallographer who contributed to unravelling the double helix structure of our DNA.

In 2019, the European Space Agency (ESA) named its space rover for the long-anticipated ExoMars mission after Franklin.

Another trailblazing woman honoured among the batch of statues is Ada Lovelace, the mathematician who has previously been hailed as the world’s first computer programmer.

The pioneering women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft and folklorist, dramatist and theatre-founder Augusta Gregory were also selected to join the historic batch of statues.

The four women were chosen from more than 500 nominations by students, staff, and alumni covering a wide field of ground-breaking individuals who contributed to scholarship and culture across history.

Trinity said it added the statues as a first step toward better representation and diversity among its public places. The university’s provost Linda Doyle said the addition of these statues has been “a long time coming”.

“While it is important to respect tradition, it is also important to break tradition,” Doyle said. “I want to thank everyone involved in the creation and installation of these beautiful pieces.

“Sculptures are an iconic feature of Trinity’s Long Room, and I hope that the inclusion of these four outstanding women is the furthering of a collective recognition of the incredible contribution of women across many fields.”

The sculptures are the work of four accomplished artists: Maudie Brady (Ada Lovelace), Rowan Gillespie (Mary Wollstonecraft), Vera Klute (Rosalind Franklin) and Guy Reid (Augusta Gregory).

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic