RTÉ is searching for the greatest Irish person ever, having commissioned a market research company to compile a long-list of 40 people by public survey. But where are all of our scientists and inventors? (Vote now for your greatest figure in Irish science, technology, engineering or maths.)
There has been some surprise about the make-up of the 40-person list. With a mere three women making an appearance and no sign of some of our cultural greats, such as Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and Jonathan Swift, the nominee list is hard to swallow.
However, most surprising is the absence of any Irish scientist, engineer, inventor or mathematician. Ireland has a rich history of contributing to the world of science, not least that we produced the father of chemistry, won a Nobel Prize for smashing the atom and invented the steam engine, the stethoscope, the submarine, and explained to the world why the sky is blue!
If you don’t believe us, just check out science writer and broadcaster Mary Mulvihill’s list of leading scientists on her blog and the many examples also on the Ingenious Ireland website, which is based on her book.
RTÉ has invited the public to vote to short-list five of the candidates on the list of 40. This vote is open until April and the chosen five will then be the subject of a one-hour documentary each, with a celebrity champion making their case for greatness.
We believe the list should include some of our science greats and with Mary Mulvihill we are campaigning for their inclusion. Can you help?
Some strong contenders include:
- Ernest Walton, who won the Nobel Prize for smashing the atom and began the atomic era
- Robert Boyle, turned chemistry into a science
- William Rowan Hamilton, the algebra he invented in 1843 helped to put a man on the Moon a century later
- Fr Nicholas Callan, invented the modern induction, coil still used in car ignitions
- Harry Ferguson, revolutionised farming when he invented the modern tractor
- Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, x-ray crystallographer, revealed the structure of benzene and diamond
You can also learn more about modern and historical Irish scientists.
Take our poll and vote for your greatest Irish scientist or suggest your own.
Update 12 April – voting closed on 7 April. Check out the results from the ‘greatest Irish scientist’ poll