In the early 1840s, William Parsons, the third earl of Rosse, designed and built the largest telescope in the world.
With it, his home, Birr Castle in Offally, became an international centre of cosmic inquiry.
Among his discoveries was the spiral nature of some galaxies.
Scientific brilliance clearly ran in the family as one of his sons invented the compound steam turbine, which revolutionised marine transport and naval warfare and led to the invention of the jet engine, while another became astronomer royal for Ireland.
The earl’s great work is still inspiring scientists, among them an international team of more than 200 astronomers from 18 countries who yesterday published in Dublin a new map of the sky.
Using the LOFAR telescope, a European network of radio antennae, they have discovered thousands of previously unknown galaxies.
LOFAR’s Irish station is in the grounds of Birr Castle.
Yesterday’s publication is a fitting tribute to what is still today a hub of scientific discovery and innovation.