St Patrick's Day scientists

17 March 2020

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Adam Murphy’s been looking back home with this tribute to Irish science…

It’s March which means St Patrick’s Day is now upon us.

And although the parades have been cancelled, there’s no reason not to celebrate, and here on the Naked Scientists, that means looking at the best of Irish science.

Robert Boyle was a 17th Century chemist, born in Waterford, and was a pioneering chemist. Boyle’s law, which relates how the pressure of a gas changes with its volume, is still taught to schoolkids today.

In a world where climate change is becoming more and more of an issue, its worth remembering John Tyndall, who did incredible work on the greenhouse effect and showed how much heat the different gases in our atmosphere can trap.

Kathleen Lonsdale, from Kildare, did groundbreaking work in using X-Rays to learn about the shape and structure of different molecules, like benzene.

Given that you need electricity to listen to what I’m saying, You should give a nod to George Stoney, who did work on electricity, and even gave us the word for the fundamental single unit of electricity, the electron.

Heading into space, Jocelyn Bell Burnell was the first person to spot evidence for pulsars, a special kind of spinning star made only of particles called neutrons. That discovery won the Nobel Prize...although not for Burnell.

And the next time you’re walking headfirst into a strong wind, remember to thank Francis Beaufort from Meath, who came up with a scale that measures wind speed, from light air, to a hurricane.

Ireland has plenty of Nobel prizes in subjects like literature, and peace. But there are also two prizes in the sciences. Ernest Walton won the Nobel Prize in 1951 along with John Cockroft, for being the first people to split the atom.

And in 2015, Irish born scientist William Campbell won the Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his role in discovering drugs for fighting infections caused by roundworms.

So if celebrating Irish culture is a part of your March plans, raise a glass to the scientists of Ireland.

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