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Alice in Trinity College

Berkekey Library

Berkeley Library

Christmas is always a time when fairy tales are in the air and none more so than Alice in Wonderland which was published 150 years ago, on 26th November 1865. And to celebrate this landmark in publishing Trinity College has a special display of related books and illustrations from its collection. It will be on show until early January and is in the foyer of the Berkeley Library.

The book’s full title is Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was written by Lewis Carroll. His proper name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898) who was a mathematician (lecturing in Christ Church, Oxford), logician and a pioneer of the new art form of photography. Among his most famous portraits were those of Michael Faraday, Lord Salisbury and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

He Latinised his names Charles Lutwidge to Carolus Ludovicus, reversed them and then changed them to ‘vulgar’ English getting Lewis Carroll. He was also an Anglican deacon and the great-grandson of Charles Dodgson who was the Bishop of Elphin in Roscommon in the 1770s.

The idea for his most famous book came during a boat trip along the Isis river from Folly Bridge, Oxford to Godstow on 4th July 1862. He made up the story as he went along to entertain the three young Liddell sisters: Lorina, Alice and Edith whose father was the Dean of Christ Church. The girls liked the story and Alice asked Carroll to write it down for her. In 1864 he gave Alice a handwritten copy of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in which he added his own illustrations. Others read it and over the next year he tweaked the story, and with the help of top illustrator John Tenniel, it was published by Macmillan with the slight name change. And since then it has never been out of print; so new generations are still finding out about the colourful cast of characters: the Hatter, the March Hare, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit and the manic Queen of Hearts who loves to shout ‘Off with their heads’. Great stuff.

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll


January 2016

For anyone interested in finding out more about Alice the British Museum, London, is running is running a course in March 2016.

Details : http://bit.ly/1QGmhhY


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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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