Care to join me in organising a poll of the greatest Irish scientist? And let’s try and get a scientist on to RTE’s list for the greatest ever Irish person.
RTE is asking us to vote for the greatest Irish person from a shortlist of 40 people. The top five will then each become the subject of a one-hour documentary on their life and legacy.
NASA couldn't have put a man on the moon without this Irish scientist
It’s an intriguing (hopefully controversial!) list.
Among the usual suspects of poets and politicians, artists and actors — Daniel O’Connell, Wolfe Tone, Sean Lemass . . . – are Stephen Gately, Colin Farrell and golfer Padraig Harrington. And about half of the 40 are still alive (shurely, you should be dead and buried and a decent time elapsed before we can judge your legacy?).
The two glaring omissions are the shortage of women — only three!! Adi Roche, Mary Robinson and Sonia O’Sullivan — and the absence of any scientist.
So, to get the ball rolling, here is my top 10 Irish scientists, in no particular order . . .
Charles Parsons, who made it possible to electrify 20th century with widespread power generation, when he invented the steam turbine.
Harry Ferguson who revolutionised farming with a lightweight tractor that replaced the horse and plough.
Dr Dorothy Price instrumental in the fight against tuberculosis, introducing the BCG vaccine to Ireland in the 1930s (and shamefully, doesn’t yet have a Wikipedia page!)
Arthur Leared, invented the modern stethoscope in 1851, so fundamental for medicine.
William Rowan Hamilton, made it possible to put a man on the moon and satellites into space, with his radical new ‘quaternion’ algebra, invented in 1843, .
John Tyndall, explained why the sky is blue and was the first to propose the greenhouse effect (as in: global warming)
John Philip Holland, revolutionised warfare at sea when he invented the first commercial successful submarine
William Thompson, Baron Kelvin, formulated some of the early laws of thermodynamics, and among his many inventions made it possible to connect the Old World and the New with a transatlantic telegraph.
Dame Kathleen Lonsdale, x-ray crystallographer, who revealed the structure of benzene and diamond.
George Gabriel Stokes, yet another great physicist of the 19th century … his contributions to science are too many to list here!
Robert Boyle, acknowledged as the ‘father of modern chemistry’, no less.
Nicholas Callan, invented the modern induction coil, essential to electric motors
Got any favourite of your own to suggest?
And anyone know how we can start an online vote in opposition to RTE’s??