November 5

Published in On this Day listing

  • 1972 Dermot Ryan became the first Catholic archbishop since the Reformation to attend a service in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.
  • 1968 At a meeting in London with Prime Minister Captain Terence O’Neill, William Craig and Brian Faulkner, Prime Minister Harold Wilson demanded reforms in Northern Ireland (see 22/11).
  • 1914 Following the decision of the Ottoman Empire to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers, Britain formally annexed Cyprus, Egypt and Sudan.
  • 1605 Discovery of the ‘Gunpowder Plot’ to destroy the Houses of Parliament in London: ‘Guy Fawkes Day’.
  • 1881 Robert Mallet (71), engineer and seismologist, died. Early in his career Mallet turned his father’s Dublin foundry into one of the biggest engineering companies on these islands, supplying the ironwork for the expanding railway network, the construction of the Fasnet Lighthouse (1848–9) and much more, such as the railings surrounding Trinity College. But it was for his pioneering work in what he termed ‘seismology’ (1858) that he is best remembered, an interest which began, perhaps, when using explosions to make a railway tunnel in Killiney years earlier. In 1849 he famously detonated kegs of gunpowder on Killiney Beach and Dalkey Island, using his own seismometer to measure the contrasting speed of travel of the vibrations through sand and rock; during the following decade, along with his son, he produced the first atlas of the Earth’s seismically active regions, which of course would not be fully understood until the twentieth century with the discovery of plate tectonics, which made sections of the earth’s crust move and collide. In January 1858 he received international acclaim by producing the first detailed analysis of an earthquake, the massive quake that shook Naples in December 1857, killing more than 10,000. During a month-long trek through the mountainous disaster zone he analysed the destruction, noting the direction in which buildings had fallen and proposing that patterns could be explained by a series of waves emanating from a ‘focus’ deep beneath the ground, which he termed the ‘epicentre’. His report, illustrated with lithographs, maps, diagrams and hundreds of photographs (photography at the time was a very novel innovation), brought him numerous awards and honours and did much to promote seismology as a new branch of science.

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