10 Irish researchers who were doing some pretty cool things in 1916

22 Apr 2016

O'Connell St (then known as Sackville St) in Dublin in the aftermath of the Easter Rising in 1916

Events to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising will be in full swing this week, with Sunday, 24 April, being the 100-year anniversary of the day the Rising starting. But what was going on in the world of research during 1916?

Were there major scientific breakthroughs during the year of the Easter Rising?

Were Irish researchers uncovering new frontiers, or were they too distracted by political events?

As part of its #LoveIrishResearch campaign, the Irish Research Council has written a series of blogs answering these very questions. Its blogs look at different researchers who were active during 1916 and what involvement – if any – they had in the Rising.

See below for a round-up of the 10 Irish researchers featured, and click on their names to find out more about their scientific achievements, as well as the involvement they had in the 1916 Rising.

  1. Dorothy Stopford Price: A wealthy, middle-class Protestant, whose loyalties shifted towards Sinn Féin in the wake of the Rising. In 1916, she was a medical student at Trinity. She went on to provide first-aid classes to the IRA and treated the wounded during the War of Independence. She also pioneered the use of the BCG vaccine.
  2. Annie Massy: A self-taught marine biologist and internationally-recognised expert on molluscs, who published three papers during 1916.
  3. John Joly: Professor of Geology and Mineralogy at Trinity College in 1916, Joly was one of the people who volunteered to defend the campus from the rebels. He was a member of staff at Trinity until his death in 1933.
  4. Philomena Ryan: A staunch nationalist, who reported to the GPO during the Rising and served as a messenger. She was an accomplished chemist, and went on to work as a public analyst for local government (and to marry future Irish president, Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh).
  5. John Lighton Synge: A mathematician and physicist (and nephew of the famous playwright John Millington Synge), he made outstanding contributions to a wide range of subjects, including Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. He is believed to have stolen a rifle during the Rising and handed it over to the rebels.
  6. Annie Maunder: An astronomer and mathematician, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1916.
  7. Brigid Lyons Thornton: Despite her medical studies, she was extremely involved in nationalist activities in 1916 – aiding the escape of prisoners, handing over guns and organising a Cumann na mBan branch in Galway. Like Dorothy Stopford Price, became well known for pioneering the BCG vaccination.
  8. Henry Dixon: A Trinity College professor devoted to botanical research, in 1916, he was awarded the Boyle Medal of the Royal Dublin Society, one of Ireland’s most prestigious science awards. Read more about his research achievements here.
  9. Ada English: Revolutionary both in her research career and as a political activist, she was one of the first female psychiatrists in Ireland, and worked tirelessly to develop mental health facilities. She was also medical officer for the Irish Volunteers and played an active role in both the Rising and the Civil War.
  10. Robert Charles Geary and Edward Conway: For Dr Robert C. Geary and Professor Edward Conway, 1916 was significant because it was the year they were awarded their undergraduate degrees. Both went on to become hugely prolific researchers in their respective fields.

#LoveIrishResearch is an Irish Research Council initiative to highlight the achievements of Irish researchers and increase public awareness of the important research conducted in higher education institutions throughout the country. Further information is available at www.research.ie.

1916 image via Flickr.com/National Library of Ireland

Updated 5pm, 25 April 2016: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that John Joly was a student at Trinity College Dublin in 1916, when he was, in fact, a professor.

Updated 3.20pm, 26 April 2016: Updated to clarify that Dr Robert C. Geary and Professor Edward Conway received their undergraduate degrees in 1916.