The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Sligo (Jun 2019)

We head northwest to Sligo for our 13th bi-monthly "county" blog following previous ones on people associated with Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan and Tippperary.  This marks the start of the third year of such regional blogs, and we estimate that about four more year's worth are on the way.

We highlight both people who were born or reared in Sligo, and people who worked there.  In particular, we include many staff members who teach maths or statistics at IT Sligo, the institution which in 1997 morphed from the former Regional Technical College founded there in 1970.

Sligo is a small county, whose native son George Stokes left the biggest footprints in scientific circles. This year is the 200th anniversary of his birth, and in September, Cambridge is celebrating in style.  There is a terrific new book out on him: George Gabriel Stokes: Life, Science and Faith (Oxford University Press, July 2019),  edited by Mark McCartney, Andrew Whitaker, and Alastair Wood, three longterm Irish academics, from Lisburn, Portsmouth, and Scotland, respectively.



Sligo is also associated with astronomers of note, from Andrew Graham at Markee in the mid 1800s to Gregg Hallinan at Caltech today.

It is likely that we have omitted many people who should be featured below, simply due to not knowing about their Sligoness.  There are also, more than likely, instances where the designation "born in Sligo" could refer to the town or more generally to the county, but we don't know which is more accurate.  Comments, additions and corrections are, as always, welcome. As are more photographs of the forgotten faces from the past.

Thanks to Leo Creedon (IT Sligo) and Olivia Bree (SPD) for valuable input. Last updated 14 Feb 2021.


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 1. Robert Phipps (sometimes Phibbs, 1765?-1844) was born in Sligo.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1785, MA 1791, LLB & LLD 1899), and taught maths, law and Greek there at various stages.  He was Donegall Lecturer of Mathematics 1800-1807, and served as registrar in the 1830s.

TCD / Donegall / Stillorgan /

 2. Astronomer Edward Cooper (1798-1863) was born in May in Dublin and attended but did not graduate from Oxford. His early years were spent travelling and honing astronomical skills. In 1831 he took over his late father's Markree Castle in Sligo, and started developing what would become Markree Observatory. In his life, which was also dominated by the landlord politics of the era, he was responsible for a great amount of astronomical observations and calculations.

Wikipedia / DNB / IAA

 3. Astronomer Andrew Graham (1815-1908) was born 8 Apr in Irvingstown, Fermanagh.  Details of his education are unknown.  He worked at Markee Observatory (1842-1864) before spending the rest of his career at Cambridge Observatory.

Wikipedia / Geni

 4. Mathematical physicist George Stokes (1819-1903) was born 13 August in Skreen, Sligo. His education and entire professional life was at Cambridge (Pembroke, senior wrangler 1841).  His considerable legacy includes work in physical optics and asymptotic expansions, Stokes' theorem in multivariable calculus, and the Navier-Stokes equations in fluid dynamics.

Wikipedia / MacTutor / Enc Brit / NNDB

 5. James Dowd (1848-1909) was born in Tubbercurry, Sligo, and was educated at TCD (BA 1874).  His career was spent as a clergyman in Tipperary and Limerick.  He was also a notable historian and antiquarian, serving for a while as editor of the Limerick Chronicle. and authoring books on Limerick.


 5B. Christopher Hildebrand (1882-1963) was born in Slligo town, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1904, BA 1905). He was professor of maths in Bridlington, Yorkshire, later returning to Sligo.

1901 Census 


 6. Olive McCormick (later Mottram, then Pride, 1889-1989) was born 23 September in Ahamplish, Carney, Sligo.  She was educated at TCD (scholar 1911, BA 1912, teaching cert 1915).  She taught at the Boys HS (Nottingham, 1915-1916), Lindisfarne Prep School (1917),  Sir John Deane's Grammar School (Northwich, Cheshire, 1917-1926).  She had married Sydney Mottram in 1915 in Nottingham, and in 1926 she married Irish solicitor John Pride in London, he died 1929.  In later years she lived in Greystones.

1901 Census / 1911 Census Family / Teaching


 6B. Winifred Morrin (later Mother Isabel, 1900-1968) was born 22 March in Seevness, west of Ballysadare, Sligo, and was educated at UCG (BA 1920).  She taught maths at St Louis School (1920-1927, 1930-1946) in Kiltimagh, south of Swinford, Mayo, becoming a nun along the way.  She then helped to set up the St Louis Mission in Nigeria, serving as Superior for nine years in Kano and first Principal of St Louis Secondary School there for 7 years.  She then spent 7 years in Kumasi, Ghana.

1901 Census / 1911 Census

notable_photo  7. Winifred Cahill (Una Ni Cathail, 1911- ?) was born 30 October in Tubbercurry, Sligo, and was educated at UCG (BA, 1933).  In 1937 she was an unsuccessful applicant to Sligo Vocational Committe for a job as Rural Science teacher.  Nothing further is known.

 8. Physicist Jim O'Reilly (1916-1978) was born 11 November in Galway city, and grew up in Ballymote, Sligo.  He was educated first at Maynooth (BSc 1938), and in due course did his Caltech PhD in 1949, his thesis on "A Study of the Physical and Chemical Composition of Homogenous and Inhomogenous Models of the Sun" being done under Robert Christy.  He taught maths and theology at Mount St Mary's College in Los Angeles (1949-1968), and then theology at St John's (Camarillo, 1968-1978).



 9. Theoretical physicist Jim Hamilton  (1918-2000) was born 29 January in Sligo town, and brought up in Belfast.  He was educated at QUB (BSc 1938, MSc 1939).  His master's thesis "A Theoretical Study of Gaseous Helium" was done under Harrie Massey.  After a few years at QUB and DIAS, and war service at the British Admiralty, his Manchester PhD (1948) on "Quantum Theory of Radiation Damping" was done under Patrick Blackett.  His career was spent at Cambridge (1950-1960), University College London, (1960-1964) and Nordita in Copenhagen (1964-1985).  At DIAS, he helped develop the theory of cosmic-ray mesons, and his later work included S-matrix theory research.  He supervised several doctoral students and authored 3 books.

Wikipedia / CERN / Bio

10. H. F. (Harry) Sandham (1917-1963) was born 1 May in Dublin and grew up there and in Sligo.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1939, MA 1941?), where he was a maths scholar.  He taught first at QUB, then for over a decade at TCD.  He also spent some time at DIAS, before moving to Nelson Research Laboratories (English Electric Labs) in Staffordshire.  He was an active contributor to journals throughout his relatively short life, his name even appearing alongside those of Erdős and Polya, and he obtained his TCD PhD on "Products of the Hypergeometric Functions, with published papers" in 1957, around the time he left academia.

11. Jim Gahan was born in Dublin and was edicated at TCD (BA 1969).  After a stint at DIAS he taught for many years at RTC/IT Sligo.

12. Mathematics education expert John O'Donoghue was born in Nenagh, Tipperary, and educated at St John Fisher College in Rochester (BSc 1969), at Rensselaer Polytechnic (MSc 1971) and at Loughborough (PhD 1978). His thesis on "Educating and Training Mathematics Teachers for Secondary Schools in Ireland: a New Perspective on Teacher Education" was done with Avi Bajpai. He had taught at RTC Sligo 1972-1974; the rest of his career was spent at Thomond College and then at UL, where he supervised over 30 theses at master's and PhD level, and co-authored two books.  He was founding co-director of the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL).

UL / Interview

13. James Flanagan (1940-2012) was born in Ardconnell, Ballymote, Sligo, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1961) and UCD (HDip).  He taught at St Nathy's College in Balloymote.



14. John Sheehy was born in Limerick.  He taught for many years at RTC/IT Sligo.


15. Grace Corcoran was born in Clonmel, Tipperary, and was educated at UCD (BSc 1974, HDip 1975).  She taught secondary school for a while, and was at RTC/IT Sligo 1979-2014.  Along the way she got a BSc in Information Technology from DCU and MA in Interactive Multimedia from IT Tallaght.

16. Fran O'Regan (brother of NUIG's Donal) was born in Cork and educated at UCC.  He has long taught at IT Sligo.



17. Liam Winters taught at IT Sligo until his recent retirement.

18. Nessan Fitzmaurice was born in Kilmactranny, Sligo, north of Boyle, Roscommon, and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1979, MSc 1980).  His 1986 PhD on "Numerical Calculations of the Stability of Some Axisymmetric Flows Proposed as a Model for Vortex Breakdown" was done at Cornell with Philip Holmes.  After a few years at NASA, his career has been spent in finance.


19. Engineer John Donovan was born in Mullinavat, Kilkenny, and was educated at NIHE/UL (BE 1982, PhD in reliability engineering 1998).  He worked in industry for a decade, and has taught at IT Sligo since 1993.

20. Eamonn O'Brien was born in Ballymote, Sligo, and was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1983).  His 1988 PhD on "The Groups of Order Dividing 256" was done at Australian National University with Michael Newman.  After a couple of years at Marquette University, and 5 years back at Australian, and 2 years at Aachen, he settled at Auckland University, in NZ, where he has had 5 PhD students.

Auckland / Link

21. Computer scientist Neil Hurley was born in Sligo, and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1987, MSc 1988).  His 1995 TCD on "??" was done under ??.  He worked for Hitachi before joining the CS staff at UCD in 1999.


22. David Doyle has taught at IT Sligo.


23. Ronan Flatley was born in Dublin and brought up in Sligo town and Letterkenny, Donegal.  He was educated entirely at UCD (BE 1989, BA 2001, MA 2004, PhD 2001).  His thesis on "Symbol Algebras, Involutions and Trace Forms" was done under Thomas Unger & Dave Lewis.  He worked in software 1989-2007 and at UCD 2004-2012 before moving to Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.


24. Seán McGarraghy was born in Drumcliff, Sligo, and was educated at UCD (BE 1989, MSc 1992, PhD 2001).  His thesis on "Annihilating Polynomials in the Witt Ring and Exterior Powers for Quadratic Forms" was done under Dave Lewis.  His career has been in business analytics, which he now heads up at UCD.  His interests include network and natural computing algorithms.


25. Leo Creedon was born in Ballinveltig, west of Cork city, and was first educated at UCC (BSc 1991, MSc 1992).  His 2000 PhD on "The Units of Modular Group Algebras" was done under Maziar Shirvani at Edmonton.  Since 2004, he has been on the staff at IT Sligo.

IT Sligo / Imbolc

25. Damien Raftery was born in Dundalk, Louth, and raised there and in Sligo town. He was educated at UCD (BSc 1994, MSc 1995) and has been teaching at IT Carlow since then.


26. Niall Friel was born in Ballymote, Sligo, and was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1995, MSc 1996), where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize. His 1999 PhD on "Application of Random Sets to Image Analysis" was done at Glasgow under Ilya Molchanov.  After a stint at Glasgow (2002-2007), he moved to UCD where he now prof of stats.  He has supervised 10 PhD students.


27. Francis Dolan (born Sligo, grew up Kilcadden, near Killygordon, Donegal, 1977-2011) was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1997, MSc 1998), earning an NUI Travelling Studentship there.  His 2003 PhD on "Aspects of Superconformal Quantum Field Theory" was done at Cambridge under Hugh Osborn.  He did numerous postdocs (at Cambridge / DIAS / Southampton / Amsterdam / Crete) before his untimely death.  His interests included superconformal characters and partition functions.

Conf / Memorial / Dedication

28. Kieren Hughes was born in Dungannon, Tyrone, and grew up in Carraroe, Sligo.  He was educated at DCU (BSc 1997) and at the Open University (MSc 2016).  He worked in the financial world and as a teacher before joining the staff at IT Sligo in 2016, where he recently completed his PhD on "Derivations of Group Algebras with Applications" under Leo Creedon.

IT Sligo

29. Cillian O'Murchu was born in Galway City and was educated at NUIG (BSc 1998, MSc in financial and industrial maths, 1999).  AFter working in industry, and teaching secondary school in Galway & Sligo (2008-2010), he joined the staff at IT Sligo.

30. Oisin Mac Conamhna was born in Sligo, and was educated at both NUIG (BSc 2000) and at Cambridge (Tripos Part III 2001, PhD 2005).  His thesis on "G-Structures in Supergravity" was done with Stephen Hawking.  After a few years at Imperial College, he switched to quantitative finance and now works for Lloyds.

Web / LinkedIn / IT

31. Joe Gildea was born in Dublin and was educated at UCD (BSc 2001, MSc 2003) and then at NUIG (PhD 2008).  His thesis on "Units of Group Algebras" was done under Ted Hurley.  He taught at IT Sligo 2009-2013 before moving to the University of Chester. 

32. Etain Kiely was educated entirely at UL (BSc in physics and biology 2001, MSc in nanotechnology education 2003, PhD in mentoring 2005).  She taught at IT Sligo 2005-2015 before moving to GMIT.


33. Gregg Hallinan was born in Castleconnor, near Enniscrone, Sligo.  He was educated at NUIG (BSc 2002, PhD 2008+), his thesis on "The Periodic And Pulsing Radio Emission From Very Low Mass Stars And Brown Dwarfs" being done with Aaron Golden.  Since 2012 he has been at Caltech. 


34. David Conlon was born in Sligo, and grew up in Lanesborough, Longford.  He was educated at TCD (BA 2003) and Cambridge (Tripos Part III 2004, PhD 2009).  His thesis on "Upper Bounds for Ramsey Numbers" was done with Tim Gowers.  He taught for a decade at Oxford, giving an invited talk on "Combinatorial Theorems Relative to a Random Set" at the 2014 ICM in Seoul, before moving to Caltech.


35. Sean Murray was born just outside Sligo town.  He was educated first at NUIG (BSc 2003, MSc 2004) and then at Maynooth & DIAS (PhD 2008).  This thesis on "Fuzzy Spaces and Vector Bundles" was done with Brian Dolan & Denjoe O'Connor.  He has done postdocs at Louvain (2008-2010) and Norwich (2010-2014), and is now researching theoretical biology at MPI Marburg.


36. Donny Hurley was born in Galway city and was educated at NUIG (BSc 2004, PhD 2010).  His thesis on "Virasoro Correlation Functions for Vertex Operator Algebras" was done with Michael Tuite.  He taught CS at Maynooth (2014-2016) and now teaches at IT Sligo.

37. Ian McLoughlin was born in Galway city, and was educated entirely at NUIG (BSc 2004, PhD 2009).  His thesis on "Dihedral Codes" was done under Ted Hurley.  He taught at IT Sligo 2012-2014 before moving to GMIT.

GMIT / Award 1 / Award 2

38. Gerard Boland was born in Kinard, Enniscrone, Sligo.  He was educated at TCD (BA) and UCD (PhD 2009).  His thesis on "Infinite Cycles in Boson Lattice Models" was done under Joe Pulé.  Career?

39. Fergal Gallagher teaches at IT Sligo.

40. Shane Burns was born in Sligo, and was educated at NUIG (BSc 2011, PhD 2015).  His thesis on "Theoretical and Numerical Analysis of Rigid-Body Impacts with Friction" was done under Petri Piiroinen. Career??

41. Engineer Konrad Mulrennan was born in Letterkenny, Donegal, and educated at IT Sligo (BEng 2013, PhD 2018+).  His thesis on "Soft Sensor Modelling for the Inline Characterisation of polylactide (PLA) in a Twin Screw Extrusion Process" was supervised by Marion McAfee, Leo Creedon & John Donovan.  He now teaches at IT Sligo.