Physics in Perspective

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 98–128 | Cite as

Daedalus in Dublin: A Physicist’s Labyrinth

  • Thomas C. O’Connor
The Physical Tourist


I describe some of the rich physical and natural-philosophy heritage of the urban center of the Irish capital Dublin (first tour) and its environs (second tour), in a two-part excursion that could take between two and eight hours in toto. In terms of history, both tours center around the nineteenth century. The first tour is located in and around Trinity College, and we encounter such personages as William Rowan Hamilton, George Fitzgerald, Ernest Walton, and Erwin Schrödinger, among others. Moving away from Trinity College, the second tour explores some of the periphery of the city. I describe the role of politics, money, and religion in shaping the emergence and development of scientific talent among the Irish people, and consequently the footprint left by physics in the city today, with its numerous sites and names that put Irish physics in an honorable place among the nations.


Dublin nineteenth century physics university education natural Philosophy Trinity College University of Dublin Catholic University of Ireland 



Dr. Thomas C. O’Connor died on November 6, 2012, leaving this manuscript nearly complete. Some editing work was done by Martine O’Connor, Christopher Noonan, and Miguel DeArce. Professor Denis Weaire, of the Department of Physics, Trinity College Dublin, kindly provided many of the illustrations. We are also grateful to Fáilte Ireland and Tourism Ireland Imagery for the illustrations referring to the city of Dublin. Finally, the editors are grateful to Edward Sweeney of The National Institute for Transport & Logistics (NITL), who took the time not only to read the manuscript with care, but also to follow out the routes, noting corrections where necessary.


  1. 1.
    For the academic history of Trinity College, we recommend R. B. McDowell and D.A. Webb, Trinity College Dublin 1592-1952: An Academic History (Dublin: Trinity College Dublin Press, 2004).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a new focus on the development of science in Ireland under the Union see Nicholas Smyth Science, Colonialism, and Ireland (Cork: Cork University Press 1999).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For the complex early development of the Catholic University of Ireland after John Henry Newman, see Thomas J. Morrissey. Towards a National University: William Delaney SJ (18351924) (Dublin: Wolfhound Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For insight into the complex relationships between the Royal Dublin Society and Trinity College in the early 1830s, when both institutions were vying for support from the British Government for technical education in Ireland, see Norman MacMillan, ed., Prometheus’s Fire: A History of Scientific and Technical Education in Ireland (Dublin: Tyndall Publications, 2000).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    A scholarly evaluation of John Tyndall’s impact on natural philosophy and modern physics can be found in William Brock, Norman MacMillan and Charles Mollan, ed., John Tyndall: Essays on a Natural Philosopher (Dublin: Royal Dublin Society, 1981).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Denis Weaire, Experimental Physics at Trinity College. In H. Holland H., ed., Trinity College Dublin: The Idea of a University (Dublin: TCD Press, 1992).Google Scholar

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© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas C. O’Connor

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