seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Máire MacSwiney Brugha, Activist & Author

Máire MacSwiney Brugha, Irish activist who is the daughter of Terence MacSwiney and niece of Mary MacSwiney, is born in Cork, County Cork, on June 23, 1918. In addition to being an activist she is also an author and is now regarded as a person of historical importance.

MacSwiney Brugha is the daughter of the former Lord Mayor of Cork Terence MacSwiney and his wife Muriel Frances Murphy. Her father dies on hunger strike when she is two years old. Her father is in jail when she is born and does not see her until she is brought to see him when she is three months old. Her family’s republican and political activities leave a strong mark on her life.

Following the death of her father, her mother moves to Dublin. MacSwiney Brugha goes to live with Madame O’Rahilly, widow of The O’Rahilly, and sees her mother intermittently. Although as a child her parents decide she would speak the Irish language, her father’s death and her mother’s health results in her move to Germany in 1923 and there she is moved around a lot. She learns German and speaks no English and little or no Irish. In 1930 she is moved to Grainau in Bavaria, where she attends school. Her aunt, Mary MacSwiney, a legal guardian of hers, eventually comes to collect her and takes her back to Ireland. This causes a court case when it is claimed her aunt had kidnapped her. As a result of the court case her aunt is given custody, and she and her mother became estranged.

MacSwiney Brugha attends Scoil Íte and then St. Louis Secondary School in Monaghan where, in 1936, she completes her Leaving Certificate and gets a scholarship to University College Cork to study arts. In 1937 she plays the lead role in a play, The Revolutionist, published in 1914 and written by her father and produced by her aunt. She returns to Germany in 1938 to keep up her German and graduates with a first-class honours degree. She goes on to get her higher diploma and becomes a teacher. She spends some time teaching in Scoil Íte and then goes to Dublin in 1942 to get a master’s degree. She meets Ruairí Brugha while in Dublin. His father, Cathal Brugha, was killed in the Irish Civil War in 1922. They marry on July 10, 1945. The marriage produces four children: Deirdre, Cathal, Traolach and Ruairí.

MacSwiney Brugha’s husband has a strong political career with her support. He is a senator, a TD, and a member of the European Parliament. She leads her Fianna Fáil cumann and volunteers with the aid agency Gorta. With her husband as Official Opposition Spokesman on Northern Ireland from 1975 to 1977, the couple are very much involved in creating the policy of developing conciliation rather than aimed more at ending partition which they previously have been focused on.

At the age of 85 and after her sight has failed MacSwiney Brugha dictates her story to her daughter-in-law, Catherine Brugha. History’s Daughter: A Memoir from the Only Child of Terence MacSwiney is launched in 2005. Her own story is recorded in Irish Life and Lore. Her story is also the subject of a radio production. She dies unexpectedly at her home in Clonskeagh, County Dublin, at the age of 93 on May 20, 2012. She is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin describes her as having made a “strong and valued” contribution to the development of Fianna Fáil while Gerry Adams says she “made her mark” on Irish history.

(Pictured: Máire MacSwiney Brugha on her wedding day, July 10, 1945)


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Death of Dame Jean Iris Murdoch, Novelist & Philosopher

Dame Jean Iris Murdoch DBE, Irish and British novelist and philosopher, dies in Oxford, England, on February 8, 1999. She is best known for her novels about good and evil, sexual relationships, morality, and the power of the unconscious. In 2008, The Times ranks her twelfth on a list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945.”

Murdoch is born on July 15, 1919 in Phibsborough, Dublin, the daughter of Irene Alice (née Richardson) and Wills John Hughes Murdoch. Her father, a civil servant, comes from a mainly Presbyterian sheep farming family from Hillhall, County Down. In 1915, he enlists as a soldier in King Edward’s Horse and serves in France during World War I before being commissioned as a second lieutenant. Her mother trains as a singer before Iris is born, and is from a middle-class Church of Ireland family in Dublin. Her parents first meet in Dublin when her father is on leave and are married in 1918. Iris is the couple’s only child. When she is a few weeks old the family moves to London, where her father had joined the Ministry of Health as a second-class clerk.  She is a second cousin of the Irish mathematician Brian Murdoch.

Murdoch is brought up in Chiswick and educated in progressive independent schools, entering the Froebel Demonstration School in 1925 and attending Badminton School in Bristol as a boarder from 1932 to 1938. In 1938 she goes up to Somerville College, Oxford, with the intention of studying English, but switches to “Greats“, a course of study combining classics, ancient history, and philosophy. At Oxford she studies philosophy with Donald M. MacKinnon and attends Eduard Fraenkel‘s seminars on Agamemnon. She is awarded a first class honours degree in 1942. After leaving Oxford she goes to work in London for HM Treasury. In June 1944 she leaves the Treasury and goes to work for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). At first she is stationed in London at the agency’s European Regional Office. In 1945 she is transferred first to Brussels, then to Innsbruck, and finally to Graz, Austria, where she works in a refugee camp. She leaves the UNRRA in 1946.

From 1947 to 1948 Murdoch studies philosophy as a postgraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge. She meets Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge but does not hear him lecture, as he had left his Trinity College professorship before she arrives. In 1948 she becomes a fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, where she teaches philosophy until 1963. From 1963 to 1967 she teaches one day a week in the General Studies department at the Royal College of Art.

In 1956 Murdoch marries John Bayley, a literary critic, novelist, and from 1974 to 1992 Warton Professor of English at Oxford University, whom she had met in Oxford in 1954. The unusual romantic partnership lasts more than forty years until Murdoch’s death. Bayley thinks that sex is “inescapably ridiculous.” She in contrast has “multiple affairs with both men and women which, on discomposing occasions, Bayley witnesses for himself.”

Murdoch’s first novel, Under the Net, is published in 1954 and is selected in 1998 as one of Modern Library’s 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. She had previously published essays on philosophy, and the first monograph about Jean-Paul Sartre published in English. She goes on to produce 25 more novels and additional works of philosophy, as well as poetry and drama.

Murdoch’s 1978 novel The Sea, the Sea wins the Booker Prize. Her other books include The Bell (1958), A Severed Head (1961), The Red and the Green (1965), The Nice and the Good (1968), The Black Prince (1973), Henry and Cato (1976), The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983), The Good Apprentice (1985), The Book and the Brotherhood (1987), The Message to the Planet (1989), and The Green Knight (1993).

In 1976 she is named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire and in 1987 is made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to literature. She is awarded honorary degrees by the University of Bath (D.Litt, 1983), University of Cambridge (1993) and Kingston University (1994), among others. She is elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1982.

Murdoch’s last novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, is published in 1995. She is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1997 and dies on February 8, 1999 in Oxford. There is a bench dedicated to her in the grounds of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she enjoyed walking.


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Birth of George Salmon, Mathematician & Theologian

Rev. Prof. George Salmon, distinguished and influential Irish mathematician and Anglican theologian, is born in Dublin on September 25, 1819. After working in algebraic geometry for two decades, he devotes the last forty years of his life to theology. His entire career is spent at Trinity College Dublin.

Salmon, the son of Michael Salmon and Helen Weekes, spends his boyhood in Cork, where his father is a linen merchant. There he attends Hamblin and Porter’s Grammar School before attending Trinity College in 1833, graduating with First Class Honours in mathematics in 1839. In 1841 he attains a paid fellowship and teaching position in mathematics at Trinity. In 1845 Salmon is additionally appointed to a position in theology at the university, after having been ordained a deacon in 1844 and a priest in the Church of Ireland in 1845.

In the late 1840s and the 1850s Salmon is in regular and frequent communication with Arthur Cayley and J. J. Sylvester. The three of them together with a small number of other mathematicians develop a system for dealing with n-dimensional algebra and geometry. During this period he publishes about 36 papers in journals.

In 1844 Salmon marries Frances Anne Salvador, daughter of Rev. J. L. Salvador of Staunton-upon-Wye in Herefordshire, with whom he has six children, of which only two survive him.

In 1848 Salmon publishes an undergraduate textbook entitled A Treatise on Conic Sections. This text remains in print for over fifty years, going through five updated editions in English, and is translated into German, French and Italian. From 1858 to 1867 he is the Donegall Lecturer in Mathematics at Trinity.

In 1859 Salmon publishes the book Lessons Introductory to the Modern Higher Algebra. This is for a while simultaneously the state-of-the-art and the standard presentation of the subject, and goes through updated and expanded editions in 1866, 1876 and 1885, and is translated into German and French. He also publishes two other mathematics texts, A Treatise on Higher Plane Curves (1852) and A Treatise on the Analytic Geometry of Three Dimensions (1862).

In 1858 Salmon is presented with the Cunningham Medal of the Royal Irish Academy. In June 1863 he is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society followed in 1868 by the award of their Royal Medal. In 1889 he receives the Copley Medal of the society, the highest honorary award in British science, but by then he has long since lost his interest in mathematics and science.

From the early 1860s onward Salmon is primarily occupied with theology. In 1866 he is appointed Regius Professor of Divinity at Trinity College, at which point he resigns from his position in the mathematics department. In 1871 he accepts an additional post of chancellor of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

Salmon is Provost of Trinty College from 1888 until his death in 1904. The highlight of his career is likely when in 1892 he presides over the great celebrations marking the tercentenary of the College, which had been founded by Queen Elizabeth I. His deep conservatism leads him to strongly oppose women receiving degrees from the University.

Salmon dies at the Provost’s House on January 22, 1904 and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery, Dublin. An avid reader throughout his life, his obituary refers to him as “specially devoted to the novels of Jane Austen.”

Salmon’s theorem [ru] is named in honor of George Salmon.


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Birth of Sophie Bryant, Mathematician, Educator & Feminist

sophie-bryantSophie Willock Bryant, Anglo-Irish mathematician, educator, feminist and activist, is born Sophie Willock in Dublin on February 15, 1850.

Bryant’s father is Rev. Dr. William Willock DD, Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Dublin. She is educated at home, largely by her father. As a teenager she moves to London when her father is appointed Professor of Geometry at the University of London in 1863, and she attends Bedford College. At the age of nineteen she marries Dr. William Hicks Bryant, a surgeon ten years her senior, who dies of cirrhosis within a year.

In 1875 Bryant becomes a teacher and is invited by Frances Mary Buss to join the staff of North London Collegiate School. In 1895 she succeed Buss as headmistress of North London Collegiate, serving until 1918.

When the University of London opens its degree courses to women in 1878, Bryant becomes one of the first women to obtain First Class Honours, in Mental and Moral Sciences, together with a degree in mathematics in 1881, and three years later is awarded the degree of Doctor of Science. In 1882 she is the third woman to be elected to the London Mathematical Society and is the first active female member, publishing her first paper with the Society in 1884. Together with Charles Smith, Bryant edits three volumes of Euclid‘s Elements, for the use of schools (Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, books I and II (1897); Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, books III and IV (1899); Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, books VI and IX (1901)).

Bryant is a pioneer in education for women. She is the first woman to receive a Doctor of Science in England, one of the first three women to be appointed to a Royal Commission, the Bryce commission on Secondary Education in 1894–1895, and one of the first three women to be appointed to the Senate of the University of London. When Trinity College Dublin opens its degrees to women, she is one of the first to be awarded an honorary doctorate. She is also instrumental in setting up the Cambridge Training College for Women, now Hughes Hall, Cambridge. She is also said to be one of the first women to own a bicycle.

Bryant is interested in Irish politics, writes books on Irish history and ancient Irish law (Celtic Ireland (1889), The Genius of the Gael (1913)), and is an ardent Protestant Irish nationalist. She is president of the Irish National Literary Society in 1914. She supports women’s suffrage but advocates postponement until women were better educated.

Bryant loves physical activity and the outdoors. She rows, cycles, swims, and twice climbs the Matterhorn. She dies at the age of 72 in a hiking accident in the Alps near Chamonix, France on August 14, 1922.


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Birth of Physicist John Joly

John Joly, Irish physicist famous for his development of radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer, is born in Bracknagh, County Offaly, on November 1, 1857. He is also known for developing techniques to accurately estimate the age of a geological period, based on radioactive elements present in minerals.

Joly is a second cousin of Charles Jasper Joly, the astronomer. He enters Trinity College, Dublin in 1876, graduating in Engineering in 1882 in first place with various special certificates in branches of engineering, at the same time obtaining a First-Class Honours in modern literature. He works as a demonstrator in Trinity’s Engineering and Physics departments before succeeding William Johnson Sollas in the Chair of Geology and Mineralogy in 1897, a position which he holds until his death in 1933.

Joly joins the Royal Dublin Society in 1881 while still a student, and is a frequent contributor of papers. During his career he writes over 270 books and scientific papers.

On May 17, 1899 Joly reads his paper “An Estimate of the Geological Age of the Earth” to the Royal Dublin Society. In it, he proposes to calculate the age of the earth from the accumulation of sodium in the waters of the oceans. He calculates the rate at which the oceans should have accumulated sodium from erosion processes, and determines that the oceans are about 80 to 100 million years old. The paper is quickly published, appearing four months later in the Society’s Scientific Transactions. Although this method is later considered inaccurate and is consequently superseded, it radically modifies the results of other methods in use at the time.

In 1903 he publishes an article in Nature in which he discusses the possibility of using radium to date the Earth and goes on to study the radioactive content of the Earth’s crust to formulate a theory of thermal cycles, and examines the radioactive constituents of certain rocks as a means of calculating their age. Working in collaboration with Sir Ernest Rutherford, he uses radioactive decay in minerals to estimate, in 1913, that the beginning of the Devonian period could not be less than 400 million years ago, an estimate which is in line with modern calculations.

Joly serves as President of Section C (Geology) when the British Association for the Advancement of Science meets in Dublin in 1908, during which he presents his paper “Uranium and Geology” in an address to the society. This work describes radioactive materials in rocks and their part in the generation of the Earth’s internal heat.

Along with his friend Henry Horatio Dixon, Joly also puts forward the cohesion-tension theory which is now thought to be the main mechanism for the upward movement of water in plants.

In 1914 Joly develops a method of extracting radium and applies it in the treatment of cancer. As a Governor of Dr. Steevens’ Hospital in Dublin, in collaboration with Walter Stevenson, he devises radiation therapy methods and promotes the establishment by the Royal Dublin Society of the Irish Radium Institute where they pioneer the “Dublin method” of using a hollow needle for deep radiation therapy, a technique that later enters worldwide use. The Radium Institute also supplies capillary tubes containing radon to hospitals for some years for use in the treatment of tumours.

Joly is elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1892, is awarded the Boyle Medal of the Royal Dublin Society in 1911, the Royal Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1910, and the Murchison Medal of the Geological Society of London in 1923. He is also conferred honorary degrees by the National University of Ireland, the University of Cambridge, and the University of Michigan. After his death in 1933, his friends subscribe the sum of £1,700 to set up a memorial fund which is still used to promote the annual Joly Memorial Lectures at the University of Dublin, which were inaugurated by Sir Ernest Rutherford in 1935. He is also remembered by the Joly Geological Society, a student geological association established in 1960.

In 1973 a crater on Mars is named in Joly’s honour.