Contents Page for ‘How Irish Scientists Changed the World’

The book covers the lives and work of 17 Irish scientists whose work had a global impact.

The text for the contents page here below  gives the names of the scientists covered in the book.

To purchase a copy  click HERE



How Irish Scientists Changed the World

By Sean Duke



Part One: Maps, Earthquakes, Electricity & Climate

1 When Britannia Ruled: Francis Beaufort

2The Shaking Earth: Robert Mallett

3 Electricity for All: Nicholas Callan

4 The Little Ice Age: Annie Maunder


Part Two: Telegraph, Steamships, Submarines & Space

5 Transatlantic Cable Hero: William Thompson

6 Full Steam Ahead: Charles Parsons

7Submarine Warfare: John Holland

8 Men on the Moon: William Rowan Hamilton


Part Three: Atoms, Radio, Pulsars and Galaxies

9 Atom Splitting – Ernest Walton *

10 The Wireless Wizard – Guglielmo Marconi *

11 Pulsating Pulsars – Jocelyn Bell Burnell

12 Spiral Galaxies – William Parsons


Part Four: Experiments, Evolution, Life & Logic

13  The Experimental Age – Robert Boyle

14 Darwin’s Defender – John Tyndall

15 What is Life? – Erwin Schrodinger *

16 DNA’s Third Man – Maurice Wilkins *

17 It’s only Logical – George Boole


* Indicates Nobel Prize Winner

What’s It All About on RTE Radio 1, The Brain (Episode 1)

Scientists are only beginning to unlock some of the secrets of the remarkable human brain (Credit:

Scientists are only beginning to unlock some of the secrets of the remarkable human brain (Credit:

What makes a psychopath? Why are some people more empathetic to others? How does mindfulness change the brain? Are parasites controlling our minds? Are infections a significant cause of mental illness in humans?

These are some of the questions myself Sean Duke, and Colette Kinsella, explored here in episode 1 of What’s It All About? on RTE Radio 1


The week’s contributors:

Dr. Robert Hare is a Canadian psychologist and researcher, who was the first to suggest that psychopaths’ brains might be ‘wired differently. He is the author of several bestselling books about psychopaths including ‘Snakes in Suits‘ which described how psychopaths operate in the corporate world. For more information on Dr Hare visit


Prof. Christian Keyers is a Dutch scientist and part of the group of researchers that discovered ‘mirror neurons’ in the brain. These neurons are active when we are subconsciously imitating the actions of other people or their  patterns of speech. Christian wrote a book, ‘The Empathic Brain‘ which provides a scientific explanation for empathy. For more information on Prof Keysers visit:


Donna Andersen is an entrepreneur, author and owner of the website Donna set up this website after a disastrous two-year marriage. She has also written two books, ‘Love Fraud‘ and ‘Red Flags of Love Fraud‘ to provide useful information for people who are in, or who have been in, damaging relationships with psychopaths/sociopaths.


Dr Dusana Dorjee is a neuroscientist based at the Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice in the School of Psychology at Bangor University. Her research investigates the links between mindfulness and mental well-being. She is particularly interested in mindfulness as it impacts on the mental health in children and adolescents. For more information about Dr Dorjee visit:


Joanne O’Malley  is a mindfulness facilitator trained by the Centre of Mindfulness Research and Practice,  at Bangor University. The recording used some background sounds from a class given by Joanne O’Malley, of ‘Mindfulness at Work’ now known as ‘Mindfulness and Compassion’. She offers Mindfulness Courses and Training in Dublin. For more information email: or visit


Carl Zimmer is a world-class science writer and columnist with The New York Times, where his column, ‘Matter’, appears each Thursday. In his books, essays, articles and blog posts, Carl reports from the frontiers of biology, where scientists are expanding our understanding of life. He is a popular speaker at universities, medical schools, museums and festivals, and he is also a regular guest on popular US radio shows such as This American Life. He is the author of several books, including ‘Parasite Rex’. To find out more about Carl and his work visit his blog at


Dr Jaroslav Flegr is a Professor of Biology at Charles University in Prague. He is a parasitologist, evolutionary biologist, and the author of the book ‘Frozen Evolution’. Dr Flegr work on the influence of toxoplasmosis infection on personality, sex ratios, and risks of traffic accidents, has received substantial media attention, with his work on road accidents being particularly prominent. He has claimed that Toxoplasma gondii infection might increase the number of road accidents by as much as one million crashes worldwide per year. For more information on Jaroslav’s work visit


Dr. E. Fuller Torrey is a renowned research psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (also known as manic-depressive illness). He is a founder of the Treatment Advocacy Center and executive director of the Stanley Medical Research Institute, which supports research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He is also a Professor of Psychiatry at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.He has also carried out research in Ireland and Papua New Guinea. For more on Dr Torrey and his research visit


Professor Joanne Webster is a scientist at the Imperial College London. After gaining a double First class B.Sc. hons, she did a D.Phil at the University of Oxford where she examined the epidemiology of zoonotic disease within the UK. Her doctoral research developed a new line of research on the impact of Toxoplasma gondii on host behaviour and is association with chronic disease. For more on Prof. Webster visit



Is there life after death? What does the science suggest?

near-death experiences

People that report ‘near-death’ experiences often mention being drawn to a white light (Image credit:

We all have an opinion on whether there is life after death. For many of us, life is made just a little bit less complicated by a conviction that there is NO life after death. That this is end. Nothing more to think about.

Top scientists, and some leading science writers, are notoriously skeptical when it comes to believing in life after death, or in the tenets or organised religion. Most of them simply don’t buy the arguments. They believe it’s all nonsense. However……

As part of our investigation into this question on RTE Radio 1’s What’s It All About? we came across scientists that are discovering data that can’t be explained by death being the end point. That we are plugged in, and alive, and then, suddenly, we are plugged out – gone.

The series is co-presented and produced by myself, Sean Duke, and Colette Kinsella.

On Sunday next, at 7pm, we’ll be taking a closer look at the science of near-death experiences, and how it is that people that have been medically ‘brain dead’ can come back to describe details of how they were ‘brought back to life’ in the operating room.

We’ll hear real stories from real people, and talk to scientists who are at the coalface of trying to better understand death, and what happens before and after death.

We’ll consider why  is it that animals seem to know when people are about to die? Why is it that so many people, all over the world, report similar – overwhelmingly pleasant – experiences of near-death, such as seeing a white light, or meeting a dead loved one?

And, we’ll talk to a scientist that believes that all of this might become irrelevant in the not-to-distant future, as scientists find a ‘cure’ for ageing and death itself.

If you are interested in these questions, and, let’s face it, who isn’t, then tune in on Sunday to hear more. We’d be delighted to have you!


What’s it all about is launched on RTE Radio 1

Sean Duke and Colette Kinsella

Colette Kinsella and myself are co-presenting RTE Radio 1’s new science show, What’s it all about?(Credit: RTE)

We were delighted with the positive response to our new science show, What’s it all about? which aired for the first time last night on RTE Radio 1.  Thank you to everyone that tuned in.

We will be updating our What’s it all about? webpage on the RTE website shortly, in response to requests by many listeners for additional information about our contributors or the topic at hand.

For those that didn’t catch it last night, here’s a link to the podcast of our first episode entitled ‘The Brain’.

Tune in next Sunday at 7pm when we’ll be voyaging out into space to join the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, and posing questions like: Why have we not found ET yet? Is it possible we HAVE already found ET? What would we say to ET if we met him?

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