How Irish Scientists Changed the World

Title: How Irish Scientists Changed the World

Publisher: Londubh Books, (November 2013)

Author: Sean Duke

The list of Ireland’s scientific greats include: Ernest Walton, born in Dungarvan, that built the machine, using odds and ends, on a shoestring budget that split the atom in 1932. John Holland, born in Liscannor that designed the world’s first combat submarine. Annie Maunder, born in Strabane, who described the link between sunspots and global warming, and cooling, and Robert Boyle, the Lismore born 17th century genius who established experiment at the core of the scientific method.

John Tyndall born in Leighlinbridge, discovered greenhouse gases, defended Charles Darwin and produced best selling books of what we would call popular science today. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, born in Armagh, and the only living scientist in the book, discovered a new type of star called pulsars, which were the signature of the slow death of a giant star, larger than our Sun.

There are three big scientific names, all Nobel winners, that the book lays claim to on behalf of Ireland. Guglielmo Marconi, the father of radio, whose mother was from Enniscorthy, Maurice Wilkins, one of three people awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of the DNA double helix had two Dublin-born parents, and Ernest Schrodinger, one of the greatest physicists of all time, and one of the great names of ‘quantum mechanics’ – the science of the very small – became an Irish citizen.

There is lots more to discover in the book, and many surprises along the way. I have attempted to bring these scientists to life, to describe their science, and their legacy to the world, and illuminate their often very colourful private lives.

-Sean Duke


“I urge everyone to buy this book – whether it’s science you want, or the lives of geniuses, it’s a great read” – Professor Patrick Prendergast, Provost Trinity College Dublin. 

“The best book I have read this year by far” – Terry Flanagan, Mooney Goes Wild, RTE Radio 1.  

“If you have teenage family members who are doing the Leaving Certificate but are struggling to find inspiration, they’ll enjoy this” – Sunday Business Post .

“Irish scientists deserve much more recognition than they traditionally receive and, happily, this book is an important and enjoyable way of understanding and celebrating their work” – Irish Medical Times. 

“Scientists will enjoy learning about the private lives and anecdotes surrounding their champions, while non-scientists will easily delve into scientific topics such as global warming, wireless technology and electricity” – Trinity News. 

“This is a fascinating book, with gripping accounts of these seventeen scientists. I would love to see young scientists reading it.” – Sherkin Comment. 

Contents Page

If you have any comments or queries about the book, send me an email to:

-Sean Duke

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