Friday, March 16, 2012

Great Irish Physicists and Scientists - Redux

Note this was originally posted 3/17/2011. Here is the original link: Great Irish Physicists and Scientists

In honor of St. Patrick's Day (my favorite holiday), I thought I would compile a list of great Irish physicists and scientists.  I will focus on physicists but will include a few other scientists for good measure.  Greatness and therefore inclusion in this list will be measured by me simply by my opinion.  How's is that for scientific!
George FitzGerald

His claim to fame is the FitzGerald-Lorentz length contraction - the decrease of the length of an objection (along the direction of motion) with non-zero velocity relative to an observer.  This is an important result of Einstein's special theory of relativity.  Born in Dublin, he was a professor at Trinity College.

Stoney, from County Offaly, is the man who introduced both the concept and the word "electron" for the fundamental unit of electricity.  Also a professor at Trinity College.
Ernest Walton
Walton is credited to be the first person to (artificially) split an atom and therefore ushered in the nuclear age.  He was a student of Rutherford at the Cavendish lab at Cambridge. Went on to a professorship also at Trinity college.  He won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Sir John Douglas Cockcroft "for their pioneer work on the transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles."  Currently the only Irishman to have won a Nobel Prize in science.

Frederick Trouton 
Trouton is most famous for Trouton's rule, which states that for various liquids, the entropy of vaporization is same: approximately 88 J/(K mol).  Trouton's rule is typically used to estimate the entropy of vaporization for liquids due to its simple form.  Trouton, born in Dublin, studied physics at Trinity College, where he also received his first academic appointment upon graduation.  He went on to a professorship at Imperial College London.

Sir George Stokes
James Hamilton
Hamilton, born in Sligo, was an early contributor to S-matrix theory.  He went on to make significant contribution to the understanding of the strong nuclear force, specifically in the area of meson-nucleon and meson-meson interactions.  Hamilton held appointments at Cambridge, University College London and the Neils Bohr Institute.

Sir George Stokes
Yes, he is that Stokes - from Navier-Stokes equations (fluid dynamics) and Stokes' Theorem (differential geometry).  Born in Sligo, Stokes was a professor of mathematics at Cambridge.  A contemporary of Lord Kelvin and James Maxwell, Stokes made significant contributions to a variety of fields, including mathematics, fluid dynamics, optics, spectroscopy and chemistry.

Thomson, born in Belfast, was knighted by Queen Victoria was later elevated to Baron Kelvin of Lorgs and is best known as Lord Kelvin. He made major contributions to astrophysics, fluid dynamics, naval engineering, but he is most known for his contributions to thermodynamics, specifically that there is a lower bound to temperature.  The kelvin scale of temperature is named after Thomson.
Aha!  And you thought he was Austrian.  Well he was, but he was also a naturalized citizen of Ireland.  Schrödinger, famous for his contributions to quantum mechanics (hence the Schrödinger equation) and is in fact considered one of the "fathers" of quantum mechanics.  Schrödinger became a naturalized citizen of Ireland during his 17 years in Dublin, during which he helped to establish the Institute for Advanced Studies and was the Director of the School of Theoretical Physics.

Yes, the father of modern chemistry was indeed Irish.  Boyle was born in Waterford County.  He is most famous for Boyle's Law, which says that for a closed system at constant temperature, the pressure is inversely proportional to the volume.  This is something that every high school kid taking chemistry is well aware of.

I am sure there are plenty of others.  Sorry to anyone I have missed!

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