Ireland's contribution to science ‘squeezed out of history’, say think-in organisers

Eoin Gill, as Robert Boyle, and Dr Sheila Donegan, Boyle's sister and collaborator, Katherine Jones. Pic: David Clynch

Ireland’s contribution to scientific achievements has been “squeezed out” of history, according to the organisers of an upcoming think-in.

‘Science and Irish Identity’ is the theme of this year’s Robert Boyle Summer School taking place in Lismore, Co Waterford, from Thursday.

According to Eoin Gill of the organising group, the legacy of Robert Boyle proves Ireland packs as much scientific as literary punch, yet we’re more comfortable applauding the work of Yeats, Joyce and other writers than Boyle and other leading scientists.

“It is not unusual for people to talk openly about Yeats and Joyce and their significance in our history and culture,” said Mr Gill.

“Science has been squeezed out, and some suggest it is because many of our leading scientists were Anglo-Irish and science therefore was seen as an Anglo-Irish pursuit and spurned by the Free State. Others claim the Catholic Church was wary of science and some even suggest that Catholics themselves leaned more towards superstition than rational inquiry.”

The general public will join scientists, academics, historians, philosophers and performers in Lismore for the fifth annual Boyle summer school which will probe why scientific achievements are less celebrated than others.

Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle

The four-day long school includes presentations, walks, poetry, re-enactments and lively debate.

“We will also be examining the truths about science and our identity, noting how Irish greats from Swift to Joyce addressed science in their works and explore the fading of science from national conversation,” Mr Gill said.

Among the talks will be one by Lismore-born Dr Florence McCarthy who will discuss the identification of a new drug candidate for the treatment of leukaemia.

On Sunday, Prof Luke Gibbons will talk about the period from Celtic Revival into the Free Sate while Dr Bill Eaton will bring it back 350 years arguing that Boyle’s On Forms and Qualities, published in 1666, was one of the most important works in the history of philosophy.

Boyle was born in Lismore Castle in 1627 and is known as the father of modern chemistry.

Bookings can be made on Eventbrite and robertboyle.ie.


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