Mathematics
Ireland

Irish Mathematical Medics (Mar 2020)

In earlier days of university study at TCD, Cambridge and Oxford, the study of mathematics (or classics) could serve as a gateway to a career in other fields, especially medicine, law, or divinity.  While many of the men who excelled at maths at third level went on to become academics in maths (or non-maths areas as diverse as geology or Greek), there were many who served as doctors and surgeons, or solicitors, barristers and judges, not to mention clergymen and even bishops.

This month, we survey over 40 people whose studies and professions saw them pursue both mathematical and medical endeavours, where at least one of those had an Irish connection. The legal and religious career angles of other Irish maths people will be explored in future blogs.

Most are men with maths training who then focussed on medical careers, but a few also pursued maths or related activities in addition to medical duties.

Incidentally, we know of only one Irish mathematical vet, While we are not aware of any such dentist, there is a related story to get one's teeth into below.

Comments and corrections are, as always, welcome. As are more photographs of the forgotten faces from the past.

Thanks to Olivia Bree (St Pat's, Drumcondra) once more for considerable genealogical assistance, and to David Spearman at TCD and Des MacHale at UCC for valuable input.

 

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 1. Mathematician and physician Charles Willoughby (1630?-1694) was possibly born in Cork, and was educated at Oxford (BA 1649, MA 1652) and Padua (MD 1663+). He was a member of the Irish College of Physicians and was essentially the first President of the Dublin Philosophical Society. He was Donegall Lecturer of Mathematics at TCD (1692-1694).

RCPI Library

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 2. Mathematician, physician, academic and author Bryan Robinson (1680-1754) spent most of his career in Dublin; his father was from Yorkshire. Information about his birth and early education is unknown, but in 1704 he published a translation of Philippe de La Hire's Nouveaux elemens des sections coniques (1679) as New Elements of Conick Sections: Together with a Method for Their Description On a Plane. He then attended TCD (BD 1709, MD 1711), as a student of Richard Helsham, subsequently teaching anatomy and medicine there for decades, being Regius Professor of Physic from 1745. He was closely associated with both the College of Physicians of Ireland (serving as its president three times) and Dr Steeven's Hospital in Dublin. His other book of interest to us was Richard Helsham’s A Course of Lectures in Natural Philosophy (1739).

Wikipedia / Worth Library / Dr Steeven's / Oxford

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 3. Mathematician and physician Richard Helsham (1683-1738) was born in Leggetsrath, Kilkenny, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1700, BA 1702, Fellow 1704, MA 1705, MD 1713, Senior Fellow 1714). He was Donegall Lecturer of Maths (1723-1730) and served as the inaugural Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural & Experimental Philosophy (1724-1738). He was also Regius Professor of Physic (1733-1738) and was a renowned practicing physician. His influential Lectures on Natural Philosophy book was published posthumously (1739).

Wikipedia / DIB

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 4. Botanist, mathematician and doctor William Clement (1707-1782) was born in Carrickmacross, Monaghan, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1724, BA 1726, MA 1731, Fellow 1731, MB 1747, MD 1748). He first taught botany, then was appointed the third Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural & Experimental Philosophy (1745-1759), and Donegall Lecturer in Maths (1750-1759). He later taught medicine for 20 years, and served as Vice-Provost.

Wikipedia / TCD / Bio

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 5. Physician and mathematician Whitley Stokes (1763-1845) was born in April in either Dublin or Waterford town (he was baptised in Dublin that May). He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1781, BA 1783, MA & Fellow 1789, MB & MD 1793). He also studied medicine in Edinburgh. He was Donegall Lecturer of Maths (1795-1800)at TCD, King's Professor of the Practice of Medicine (1798-1811), chair of medicine at RCSI 1819-1928, and Regius Prof of Physic back at TCD (1830-1840, succeeded by his son). Early in his career, he was a friend of Wolfe Tone, and in 1814 he funded an English-Irish dictionary.

Wikipedia / TCD


 
 
 
 

 6. Mathematician, geologist and doctor Sam Haughton (1821-1897) was born 21 December in Carlow town. He studied maths at TCD (BA 1843, MA 1852, DSc 1891), where he taught for over 35 years, for much of that as professor of geology.  His mathematical work was extensive, and he also qualified as a medical doctor.  The 10 maths books he co-authored with TCD colleague Joseph Galbraith are credited with educating "a generation of Irishmen in technical issues that would make them skilled and employable."

Wikipedia / Enc Brit / Hist of Irl / TCD / RIA / Edu Times

 7. Doctor Edward McGuire (or Maguire, 1825??-1907) was described as a native of Cavan in an obituary.  Other sources associate his early days with Fermanagh and Monaghan.  He was one of the first two maths graduates of Queen's, Galway (BA 1854, MA 1882?), having earlier attended a seminary for a while. He then pursued medicine (Edinbugh 1859) and spent his career as a doctor in Mayo.  His angle trisection attempt from 1851 survives.

Angle trisection / Obit / 1901 Census

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 8. Doctor Edward Barrington (1827-1904) was born 20 July in Dublin. He was educated at TCD (BA & gold medal 1846+, MA 1850, MB 1870), and spent some apparantly fruitless years in Melbourne, Australia, before returning to TCD to train as a doctor. He practiced in Dublin.

WikiTree / AUS (page 296) / 1901 Census

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 9. Surgeon and physician Matthias O'Keeffe (1830?-1884) was educated at Queen's College Cork (BA 1852?, MA 1853, MD? 1860). He worked as librarian at Queen's, Cork, where was a friend of George Boole, until being appointed Professor of Materia Medica there in 1875.

Obit

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10. Surgeon Edmund T. Palmer (1835?-1878) was an early maths graduate at Queen's College Cork (BA 1855, MA 1856), and qualified at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh (1858).
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11. Doctor John Hamilton Moore (1834?-1870) was educated at Queen's College, Galway (BA 1858, MD 1861, MA 1882) and RSCI (Lic). His short career was spent in Benburb and Moy, Tyrone.

 

 

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12. Academic Anthony Traill (1838-1914) was born 1 November, Ballylough House, Bushmills, Antrim. He was educated (perhaps over-educated!) at TCD (scholar 1858, BA 1860+, MA 1864, Fellow, LLB & LLD 1865, MB & MCh 1869, MD 1870, Senior Fellow 1899), and was associated with the college for half a century.  He played a science advisory role in the 1883 start of the hydro-electric passenger tram-way from Bushmills to Portrush, a project of his brother's. He served as High Sheriff of Antrim (1884), was assistant of natural philosophy at TCD (1884-1899), and became Commissioner of National Education in Ireland (1901). He was appointed provost at TCD in 1904, just as the college started admitting women.  He also contributed to the Educational Times. He seems to have never practiced medicine despite his qualifications.

Wikipedia / 1901 Census / 1911 Census / TCD / UMJ / Archives / Edu Times

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13. Physician, surgeon and statistician Thomas Grimshaw (1839-1900) was born 16 November in Whitehouse, Antrim. He was educated at TCD (BA 1860, MB & MCh 1861, MD 1867, MA 1874). His career was spent working at Dr Steevens' Hospital, Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital, and Coombe Women's Hospital in Dublin. He served as Registrar General for Ireland for the last 2 decades of his life, and was president of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland (1888–1890).

Wikipedia / Histpop / UMJ / Bio / Obit / RSCI (page 742)

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14. Anatomist, surgeon and academic Thomas Evelyn Little (1840?-1891) was born in Athlone, Westmeath, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1860, BA 1861+, MB 1866, MD 1870).  He lectured at TCD for many years, as
University Anatomist, and was also surgeon at Sir Patrick Dun's Hospital.

BMJ

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15. Doctor William Blunden (1840-1923) was born 25 July in Dublin, and grew up there and in Kilkenny. He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1860, BA 1862, MB 1876) and at the RCSI (Licenciate 1876), LMKQCPI 1877. He worked as doctor in rural New Zealand for over 2 decades, then returned to Kilkenny, where he served as High Sheriff of the county (1904-1905).

Wikitree / Family / Debrett's / Link / NZ doctor / 1911 Census

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16. Physician and physiologist Reuben Harvey (1845-1881) was born 17 April in Cork city, where his father was later professor of midwifery at Queen's College. He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1865, BA & gold medal 1866, MB & MCh 1870, MD 1873). He then studied in Vienna and in Wuertsburg, before teaching anatomy at TCD and physiology at the Carmichael School of Medicine in Dublin, becoming registrar at the latter.  He was also physician to several hospitals, including the Cork Street Fever Hospital, where at 36 years of age he fatally contracted typhus.

Obit / Prize / RSCI (Page 748)

notable_photo 17. Doctor William Brooke (1847?- ) was possibly baptised 7 October in Dublin. He was educated at Queen's College Galway (BA 1867, MD 1874, MA 1882). Career?
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18. Doctor Thomas Fleetwood (1847-1930) was born 29 October in Dublin. He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1868, BA 1870, MB 1872). His career was spent as a doctor in Australia.

Window / Geni / Grave

notable_photo 19. James Warnock (1849??-1922?) was educated at Queen's College Belfast (BA 1870, MA 1871). He is believed to have been a doctor.
notable_photo 20. Charles Joseph McCarthie/McCarthy (1850?- ) was educated at Queen's College Galway (BA 1871, MA 1882). He may have been a doctor.
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21. Doctor John Wilson (1851?-1921) was perhaps born in Cavan. He was educated at Queen's College Cork (1873) and perhaps also at QUB. His medical credential were MD, MCh, LM, RNI. He worked as a doctor in Castleblayney, Monaghan.

1901 Census / 1911 Census

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22. There was a Michael Kelly educated at Queen's College Galway (Senior Scholarship, BA 1874, MA 1876). He is also listed as MD 1882, the year Queen's University Ireland gave way to RUI and many "nominal" advanced degrees were awarded, and MCh & Dip Obs 1883.  It seems unlikely that he is doctor Michael F. Kelly (1854-1896), who was probably born in Shanagolden, Limerick, south of Foynes. That man's medical qualifications include LAH & LM Dublin 1876 and LFPS Glasgow 1880. His short career was spent in Felling, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Death / Lancet

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23. Doctor Robert Shore (1856-1944) was born 10 November in Sixmilbridge, Clare, and was educated at Queen's College Galway (BA 1875, MA 1877, MD 1880). His career was spent as a doctor in the British Army in India.

Baptism / Indian Medical Gazette / India

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24. Academic and pathologist Alexander  O'Sullivan (1858-1924) was born in May in Bandon or Macroom, Cork. He was educated at TCD (maths scholar 1879, BA 1881, Fellow 1886, MB, BCh & BAO 1894), having switched to medicine under the influence of Sam Haughton above. He taught there for 3 decades, rising to the rank Prof of Pathology, while still maintaining his interest in maths.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Wikipedia / BMJ

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25. Doctor Benjamin Steede (1863-1920) was born in June in Nenagh, Tipperary. He grew up there, in Galway, and in Belfast. He was educated at Queen's Belfast (BSc 1886?) and at TCD (BA 1887, MA 1890, MD 1894). His career was spent as a GP in Newcastle and Rostrevor, Down, and while there he contributed to the Educational Times and the Proceedings of the RIA. (Photo courtesy of Mike Steede.)

Educational Times / PRIA

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26. Doctor William A. Stoops (1869-1938) was born 20 February in Mullyash just outside Castleblayney, Monaghan.  He was educated at Queen's Belfast (BSc 1897, MD 1903??) and practiced medicine in England.  

1901 Census

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27. Medical physicist Edith Stoney (1869-1938) was born 6 January in Dublin, daughter to Offaly's physicist George Stoney (who later coined the term "electron").  She was educated at Newnham College (BA earned 1893).  She had a remarkable career in physics and medical physics, including stints teaching maths at Cheltenham Ladies' College and physics at the London School of Medicine for Women, from which she had received a medical degree (1895).  TCD awarded her ad eundum BA & MA (1904). She was very active in the suffrage movement and in WWI medical efforts.

Wikiepedia / IPEM / Nature

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28. Doctor William Fitzmaurice Ahern (1871-1952) was born 20 February in Edinburgh, Scotland, and grew up in Cork. He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1892, BA 1893, MD 1898). His career was spent as a doctor in Dublin.

1901 Census / 1911 Census

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29. Doctor Gustav Thompson (1878-1944?) was born 8 December in Liverpool, England, and grew up there and in Westmeath. He was educated at TCD (BA 1903, MD? 1906), and then worked as a doctor in India for 2 decades, and then in England.

Birth / 1901 Census / India / BMJ

 

 

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30. Doctor James Warnock (1879-1953) was born 26 June in Auglish, Cookstown, Tyrone. He was educated at first at Queen's College Galway (BA 1901, MA 1903, MB, BCh & BAO 1906, MD 1908), where he also taught physics for a year. His career was spent as a doctor in Leeds, England, where he had a particular interest in industrial medicine. He retained his interest in maths throughout his life.

1901 Census / Geni / Obit

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31. Doctor Robert Jamison (1880-1943) was born 7 September in Ballyrush, near Comber, Down. He was educated at QUB (BA 1900, MD 1908?) and spent his entire career as a doctor in Swaziland.

1901 Census / Swaziland

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32. Doctor Barkley McCullough (1882-1957) was born 22 November in Ballyhenry, Antrim, on the outskirts of Newtownabbey, and was educated at QUB (BA 1904, MD? 1910). His career was spent as a doctor, first in Sudan and Nigeria, and finally in the Dublin Medical Mission.

1901 Census / Campbell / Missions / Grave

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33. Doctor Norman Graham (1884-1986) was born 11 September in Tattygar, Enniskillen, Fermanagh, and grew up there and in Comber, Down. He was educated at QUB (BSc 1906, MD 1913??). His career was spent as a doctor.

1901 Census / 1911 Census

34. Doctor and radiologist John Bowen (1885-1954) was was born 29 March in Galway town. He was educated at Queen's College/UCG (BA 1906, MA in physics 1910), where he also worked for a few years as an assistant in physics. He attended lectures by JJ Thompson at Cambridge (1911-1912), the notes from which survive. After some more years on the staff at UCG, he obtained a medical degree somewhere (1922). He spent the rest of his career working in China in radiology.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / King's / China / Obit

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35. Clinical pathologist Sinclair Miller (1885-1961) was born 19 March in Cloughfin, west of Cookstown, Tyrone, and was educated at QUB (BSc 1908, MA 1910, BSc 1912, MB & BCh 1914). After WWI service he continued medical studies at London Hospital (DPH 1919, MD 1922, MRCP 1923). The rest of his career was spent in Harrogate, Yorks, where his expertise included rheumatism and diabetes and he set up early blood transfusion facilities.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Our Heroes / UK Nat Archives / BMJ / Plaque

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36. Doctor James Boyd (1888-1963) was born 9 February in Ballyreagh, Dunaghy, east of Ballymoney, Antrim, and grew up there and in Down. He was educated at QUB (BA 1908, MA 1910, BSc 1911, MD 1923). Apart from an early stint teaching maths at the Sorbonne, he spent his career in the Northern Ireland Ministry of Health, rising to the rank of CMO.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Min Health / BMJ

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37. Doctor Billy Lynd (1887-1947) was born 9 April in Drumsteeple, Aghadowey, Londonderry, He was educated at QUB (BA 1908, MD??) and spent his career as a doctor, first in Belfast and then in Cheshire.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / 1916

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38. Doctor James Martin (1893-1984) was born 11 June in Jordanstown, Antrim. He was educated at QUB (BA 1915, MA 1918, MD 1922). His career was spent as a doctor in London.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Ulster Bio / RCP /WhoNamedIt

39. Doctor Wilfred Smith (1893-??) was born 25 December in Galway town, where his father was headmaster at the Model School for 50 years. He was educated at UCG (BA 1913, MA 1914, MB, BCh & BAO 1920). His career may have been in England.

1901 Census / 1911 Census

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40. Medical researcher Maurice Goldblatt (1895-1967) was born 2 July in England, and grew up there and in Antrim. He was educated at QUB (BA 1915, MD 1925) and at the University of London (1929). His career was spent as a medical researcher in London, Manchester and Milan.

1911 Census / BJR / BMJ

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41. Anatomist, biomechanics pioneer and academic Michael MacConaill (1902-1987) was born in Ballymena, Antrim. He was educated in medicine at QUB (MB, BCh & BAO 1925, MSc in anatomy 1928) and lectured at Sheffield for a dozen years before becoming Prof of Anatomy at UCC (1942-1973). From the early 1930s on, he published a lot on applying maths, physics and engineering principles to the study of human joints; he is regarded as a pioneer of biomechanics. He also applied catenary curves to dental arches, and Boolean algebra to neuronal networks.

1901 Census / Wikipedia / DIB / UCC

42. Daniel Lydon (1914-1941) was born 13 July in Galway town, and was educated at UCG (BSc 1934, MSc 1935). He was a medical student there when he died prematurely of TB.

Obit

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43. Fluid dynamicist, doctor and bio-engineer Percy McCormack (1929-2015) was born 23 October in Dublin and grew up there and in Limerick. He was educated at first at TCD (Physics scholar 1950, BA 1951, PhD 1955 on "Anomalous Secondary Maxima in Rossi Transition Curve", MA & Fellow 1964, MSc by thesis probably under John Byrne on "Techniques for the automation of multi-element chemical equilibria computations on a digital computer" 1966). In the 1960s he taught in engineering at TCD before working at NASA for a few years.  TCD awarded him ScD (1971) whereupon he spent a few years on the staff at UCC. After a spell in the US Navy he returned to study at TCD (MD 1978). He then worked at NASA again, and in time became the chief physician for the European Astronaut Corps.  From 2001 on, he was a bio-engineer at the University of Illinois in Chicago.  His books included Physical Fluid Dynamics (1973) with TCD's Laurence Crane, and Vortex, Molecular Spin and Nanovorticity: An Introduction (Springer, 2012).

Obit / NASA

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44. Psychiatrist Anne Ward was educated at TCD (Scholar 1977, BA c. 1979, MB BCh BAO, MRCPI, MD, MRCPsych) having switched from maths to medicine after a year pursuing the former at Cambridge. Her career has been as a consultant psychiatrist in psychotherapy in the UK.