Monthly Archives: July 2015

Royal Irish Academy – Living History

Royal Irish Academy

Royal Irish Academy

The Royal Irish Academy is an all-Ireland learned society and was founded in 1785. The following year it was granted its royal charter, and its aims were ‘the promotion and investigation of the sciences, polite literature, and antiquities, as well as the encouragement of discussion and debate between scholars of diverse backgrounds and interests.’ The Earl of Charlemont, who described himself as a ‘lifelong learner’ was, appropriately, the first president. Today there are over 400 members, and some of the notable honorary members in previous years have included Charles Darwin, Max Planck and Albert Einstein.

The Academy’s first residence was at 114 Grafton Street (across from the Provost House, Trinity College), but it moved to its present address (19 Dawson Street) in 1851. The new premises had more space to accommodate the growing collections of antiquities, and the Reading Room and Meeting Room were added between 1852-54. Much of the collection was subsequently transferred to the new National Museum of Ireland in 1890, and included the Cross of Cong, the Tara Broach and the Ardagh Chalice.

The Reading Room

The Reading Room

The library’s unique collection of manuscripts (over 1,500) began when it was presented with the fourteenth-century Book of Ballymote. There are many other famous manuscripts in its care, but the most precious is the Cathach (Psalter of St Columba). This is the oldest surviving Irish manuscript and dates from the sixth century. The library is a research library for members, students, international scholars and members of the public. It holds the largest collection of Irish-language manuscripts, and archives on Irish history, archaeology and 19th century Ordnance Survey records. The library also holds the collection of Thomas Moore, the Irish singer and songwriter, who penned The Last Rose of Summer and The Minstrel Boy. His harp is on show in the library.

Thomas Moore's harp

Thomas Moore’s harp

In the grand Meeting Room you can find chandeliers and benches from the Irish House of Lords which was abolished over two hundred years ago. Now that’s living history!

Back benches

Back benches

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Erwin Schrodinger – Nobel Physicist who lived in Dublin

Erwin Schrodinger

Erwin Schrödinger

For a man interested in colour and who published scientific papers on the subject, the adjective colourful applies to Erwin Schrödinger who lived on Kincora Road, Clontarf  for seventeen years and certainly left his mark. Among his many achievements here was a series of lectures given in Trinity College in February 1943 on ‘What is life? The Physical Aspect of the Living Cell.’ This was inspirational to many scientists, most notably James Watson and Francis Crick whose work led to the discovery of DNA in 1953. A sculpture commemorating the achievement was unveiled on its 60th anniversary in the Botanic Gardens which James Watson attended.

Schrödinger was an only child born in Vienna in 1887 to middle-class, educated parents and was tutored at home until the age of eleven. Later he attended school, then university where he excelled and gained a PhD in Physics. World War I interrupted his progress and he spent it as an officer in the Austrian army.

DNA sculpture in Botanic Gardens

DNA sculpture in Botanic Gardens

After the war he had a number of different positions, married Annemarie (Anny) Bertel in 1920, before he was offered the chair in Theoretical Physics at the University of Zürich in 1921. He stayed there for six years, probably the most productive time in his career, before being offered the post of Max Planck’s replacement at the prestigious University of Berlin. And it was during his time in Zürich that he became interested in wave mechanics after reading a paper by Albert Einstein. Thinking about how to explain the movement of an electron as a wave his 1926 paper provided a theoretical basis for the atomic model. His groundbreaking work is hailed as a masterpiece, and one of the greatest accomplishments ever in in science. It subsequently led to new insights into quantum mechanics and other areas of chemistry. In 1933 both he and Paul Dirac (Cambridge University) were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ is his famous thought experiment that illustrates the problem of the interpretation of quantum mechanics when applied to everyday objects.

DIAS - Burlington Road

DIAS – Burlington Road

By that time he was aware that many of his Jewish colleagues were being dismissed from their posts and he decided to leave Hitler’s Germany. He went to Oxford University for three years before returning to Austria in 1938. The following year he accepted Eamon de Valera’s offer of coming to Ireland and helping establish the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). De Valera, himself a mathematician, got ‘his man’ and made sure that Schrodinger’s visa arrangements were processed speedily. For Schrodinger’s needs were indeed complicated and had previously stymied him at both Princeton and Oxford, as he lived with his wife and his lover, Hilde March, with whom he had a daughter. Of his relationship with the fairer sex he said: ‘Poor things, they have provided for my life’s happiness and their own distress. Such is life.’ Colourful indeed.

Plaque in Kincora Road, Clontarf

Plaque in Kincora Road, Clontarf

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Marked Off – Competition

Chance to win copies of my novel Marked Off – better be quick.

Best of Luck!

CompetitionX

 

Result: And the good news is that three winners were selected and I have signed the books. The publishers, New Island Books, have now posted them to the lucky trio.  A big thanks to them and, of course, to Dublin Gazette Newspapers for running the competition.

Many thanks to all involved,

DC

 

 

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The Zoological Museum

Zoological Museum

Zoological Museum

It is the oldest museum in Ireland and, until recently, a place that I had not known about. The Zoological Museum, in Trinity College, was established in 1777, although records show that there were collections of ‘natural history objects’ dating back almost a hundred years before. The museum was originally based in the Regent House and was established to house Polynesian artifacts from the South-Sea Islands, many of which had been brought back from the expeditions of Captain Cook. A new building was erected in 1876 to house the growing collection, but due to renovations and the demand for space the museum is now on the first floor. However, much of the collection is intact and it is a vital resource for students.

Last Great Auk

Last Great Auk

Over the years there has been a number of Curators with Whitley Stokes (founder of the Botanic Gardens and co-founder of Dublin Zoological Society) appointed in 1792, and Robert Ball in 1844. He was the most influential appointee and was responsible for amassing most of what the museum now holds. He also donated his own considerable collection. And in that same year, when it was declared extinct, the museum was presented with a specimen of Ireland’s Last Great Auk. This flightless bird, a relative of the puffin and razorbill, was hunted by man for its fine feathers. There are only a few specimens of this bird in museums today, and it is one of the most treasured items in the museum’s 25,000 piece collection.

JAWS

JAWS

The great thing about visiting the museum is that you can handle many of the items; like the long narwhal tusk; the skull of a rhino or piece together the skeleton of a monkey. And if you like (or dare!) you can have your photograph taken in the jaws of a giant shark. Now that’s different! From birds and butterflies to a royal elephant there is much to see and enjoy in this little museum. And, appropriately for a zoological institution, there is a rare Charles Darwin item in a glass case at the entrance. Don’t miss it.

Charles Darwin Funeral

Charles Darwin Funeral

 

 

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From Zeppelins to Vampires and Star Wars!

I just received notice of an article I wrote on the actor Peter Cushing. It was a pleasant surprise, and it has been published in the Dulwich Society Journal (click to read it online).  Cushing was brought up in Dulwich, a place that I know well, and I am thankful that it has now seen the light of day – I’m sure Peter would understand! (Click images to read.)

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Edward Worth Library – A Little Gem

Edward Worth

Edward Worth

They say that ‘good things come in small parcels’ and a visit to the Edward Worth Library certainly proves the point. It is one of the city’s   lesser-known gems and, after nearly three hundred years, is unchanged and offering a unique step back in time.

Worth (1678-1733) was born in Dublin, the second son of John Worth, Dean of St Patrick’s cathedral. He was educated as a physician in Oxford and Leiden University in the Netherlands. The collection of books reflects his training, in that as much as a third comprises  works on medicine and science, with the remainder dealing with philosophy, literature, history and the classics. And although he has left us a priceless gift, it is surprising that we know almost nothing about his own life, personal or professional, as he left no correspondence. The closest we get are the notes he made on book- auction lists.

Dean John bequeathed a small number of books to Edward who was only ten years old when he died in 1688. However, the majority of the collection was assembled by Edward himself, buying ‘libraries’ from auctions in Dublin, London and Amsterdam. He was very selective in what he bought and the collection reflects this. There are almost 4,400 volumes on show, with the earliest dating from 1475 – a mere thirty-odd years since Guttenberg’s breakthrough!

HANDrail in the courtyard

HANDrail in the courtyard

Worth worked in Dr Steevens’ Hospital and he bequeathed his collection, and funds for shelving and bookcases, to the new hospital. And east-facing room was chosen to minimize the sun’s effect, and the library was the first to protect books through glass-fronted doors.

Original glass-fronted bookcases

Original glass-fronted bookcases

Today, many conferences are seminars are held in the library that reference books in the collection. There will be an Open Day on Friday July 24 that will be of interest to those with a love of books and ‘all things Dublin’. Should you go along? Of course, because it’s Worth it!

Dr Steevens' Hospital

Dr Steevens’ Hospital

 

 

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Marked Off – Review

Another good review of Marked Off – many thanks. Click linkPaleoutlaw

 

THE book

THE book

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