This is based in a beautiful cream building, just a stone’s throw from Piccadilly Circus.
The event was full of scientists – and one man with a beard and glasses resembled what I always thought Uncle Quentin looked like in the Famous Five!
When the President entered, preceded by his entourage (which included his general secretary, his press secretary Wally Young, Chief of Protocol Orla O’Hanrahan as well as his aide de camp) the room hushed into silence.
By the end of the Presidnet’s speech I had learned an awful lot I never knew about Irish science. He noted that our literary greats such as Yeats seem to be more well-known than our scientists – and he was right.
Did you know Irish man John Tyndall explained why the sky is blue (the same man also made an important observation which was a major step in understanding the “greenhouse effect”). William Parsons in Birr built the world’s largest telescope. John Lighton Synge pioneered the study of black holes. It was an Irish scientist George Johnstone Stoney who coined the term electron (despite the fact that I said good riddance to Leaving Cert chemistry all the way back in 2006, that blew my mind!) And another Irish man Ernest Walton was one half of a team that artificially “split the atom” in 1932! He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951.
In fact, one of the founding figures of the Royal Society in mid-1600s was Robert Boyle, the son of the Earl of Cork and he is considered a founder of modern chemistry. His 1661 book The Sceptical Chymist outlined the theory that matter was made of atoms and he made the argument for chemical experiments.
Robert Boyle in himself is an interesting character. According to an archivist at the Royal Society who spoke to Country Living, Robert Boyle was “by far and away the most important scientist associated with the Royal Society before Issac Newton. We have his papers here.”
He then proceeded to show us Robert Boyle’s papers which lists problems he thought were desirable for scientists to tackle. The prolongation of life, the art of flying, the emulating of fissures without engines and potent drugs to alter the imagination (!) featured on the wish list written in the 1600s.
The first woman to be elected fellow of the Royal Society in 1949 was x-ray crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale from Newbridge. Eamon De Valera was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1968.
There are more reasons than historical why the Royal Society is relevant to Ireland. Scientific collaboration between the two countries was an important feature of remarks made today.
Science Foundation Ireland and the Royal Society are in discussions about a joint programme which will aim to provide outstanding scientists in Ireland who have the potential to become leaders in their chosen field with the opportunity to build an independent research career. The International Exchange Cost Share Programme run jointly by the Royal Society and the Royal Irish Academy supports new collaborations between British and Irish Scientists.