Science and Irish history

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2017), Letters, Volume 25

Sir,—Eoin Gill’s thought-provoking article (HI 24.5, Sept./Oct. 2016, Platform) asks: ‘Has science also been airbrushed out of Irish history?’. A similar concern was part of the decision by the minister for finance and the Central Bank to issue a series of silver proof coins celebrating ‘Irish Science and Invention’. Coins celebrating Ernest Walton (2016) and John Philip Holland (2015) have already been issued to collectors. The next in the series will celebrate Edward Parsons (2017). Separately, a coin commemorating the anniversary of William Rowan Hamilton was issued in 2005. I am not at all sure that religion, politics or association of science with England have been key elements in our attitude towards the subject. Our historic lack of industry was undoubtedly a big factor. And I think that our traditional image of ourselves and our Irish culture has focused more on literature and music than on industry, engineering and science. I am old enough to remember the long-standing encouragement of the brighter pupils to take literature and classics rather than maths and science. Looking to the future, however, the attitude has dramatically changed over recent decades. And I am hopeful that the really impressive array of Irish scientists, engineers and inventors will, in time, achieve their rightful prominence in Irish history.—Yours etc.,

LOUIS O’BYRNE
Dublin 18

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