The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Queen's County / Laois (Apr 2020)

Our 18th bi-monthly regional Irish focused blog highlights mathematical people associated with Laois (formerly Queen's County), following on Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan, Tipperary, Sligo, Carlow, Down, Cork and Cavan.

As usual, we mostly include people known to have earned maths degrees. There are also a couple of the almost 100 Irish (or Irish-based) men who contributed problems or solutions to the Educational Times in the second half of the 1800s (future blogs will attempt to highlight all of them).

The name Portlaoise for the main town in the county was used by some as far back as the 1630s, whereas Laois itself was known as Queen's County from 1557 to 1929. During that same period Portlaoise was called Maryborough.

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

Thanks to Olivia Bree (SPD) and David Spearman (TCD) for valuable input. Last updated 5 April 2021.


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 1. John Pellissier (sometimes Pellishiere, 1703-1781) was born in Clonygown, southwest of Mountmellick, Queen's County, to a Huguenot father. He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1721, BA 1723, MA 1726, Fellow 1827, Senior Fellow & DD 1738). He was Donegall Lecturer of Maths at TCD 1727-1752, and became Prof of Divinity in 1746, also serving as bursar and then vice-provost (1747-1753). From 1753 on he devoted himself to parish work in Tyrone.


 2. Knightly Wilmot-Chetwode (1831-1887) was born in Woodbrook, Maryborough. Queen's County, and was educated  at TCD (BA 1855+). His career was spent in law, and he died in France.

 3. Philosopher and astronomer William Monck (1839-1915) was born 21 April in Skeirke near Borris in Ossory, Queen's County, and grew up in Kilkenny. He was educated at TCD (BA ethics & logic 1861) and spent part of his career at TCD (Prof of Moral Philosophy 1878-1892). He was also called to the bar served as Chief Registrar in the Bankruptcy Division of the High Court of Ireland. His books include ones on astronomy, and he contributed to the Educational Times.

Wikipedia / Bio / Astronomy / Chess / Edu Times

 4. Engineer John Croasdaile (1867-1954) was born in Dublin, and grew up in Rynn, northwest of Mountmellick, Queen's County. He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1889, BA 1890, BEng 1892, MA 189x). His career was spent as an engineer and architect in England and Belfast.

1911 Census / DIA / Peerage / Family / Obit


 5. William Clements (1872-1949) was born 7 September in Maryborough, Queen's County.  He was educated at Queen's Belfast, then at Cambridge (St John's, BA 1897, MA 1908). He taught briefly at Methodist College, Belfast, before turning to a career as a clergyman in England.

QUB / 1901 Census

 6. Rogerson Cotter (1869-1957) was born 10 December in Milan, Italy. He grew up in Queen's County, and was educated at TCD (BA 1897, MA 1900). His career was spent teaching physics at Cardiff, TCD and QUB. TCD awarded him DSc (hon) in 1940.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Wikipedia / Peerage / Obit

 7. Robert Cummins (1881-1960) was born 1 March in Mountmellick, Queen's County, and was educated at Queen's College Galway (BE 1900, BA 1901). His career was spent as a structural engineer in the USA, first in Detroit, Michigan, then in Houston, Texas. He taught a bit at Rice (1928-1931). He designed the San Jacinto monument and played a major role in the development of the ports of Houston, Brownsville and Corpus Christi.

1901 Census / Career

 8. Alfred Ennis (1907-1991) was born 28 November in  Mountmellick, Queen's County. He was educated at TCD (maths Scholar 1928, BA {PSYCH} 1929, MA 193x). After teaching maths at TCD briefly, his career was spent as a clergyman in England and Palestine.

1911 Census / 1932

 9. Richard Walsh (1913-1994) was born 17 January in Dingle, Kerry, and grew up in Laois & Dublin.  He was educated at UCG (BSc 1935, MSc 1936),where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship.  His 1943 DSc in physics was done at La Sapienza in Rome, by which time he was known as Reverend Pius Walsh.  He was at DIAS 1944-1946, and the rest of his career was spent at Multyfarnham and Gormanston Colleges.

1943 / 1945 / 1951 / Death

10. Michael Flynn (1926-1995) was born 18 September in  Camross, Laois. He was educated at UCD (BA? 1948) and later got a maths master's at Fairfield University, in Virginia (1973). His career was spent as priest in Gambia and then the USA.


11. Sean Browne (1945?-1981) was born in Portlaoise, Laois, and was educated at UCD (BSc 1969, MSc 1970, PhD 1972), his thesis on "Scale and conformal invariance in Lagrangian field theory" being done under Ciaran Ryan. After a postdoc at Duke working with Larry Biedenharn he worked at DIAS and TCD. He died in Italy while studying for the priesthood.

Paper1 / Paper2

12. Danny Carroll was born in Errill, Portlaoise, Laois. He was educated at UCD (1969) and at Kevin St (PhD 1992), his thesis on "Transitivity properties in Abelian Groups" being done with Brendan Goldsmith.  His career was spent teaching at secondary school in Dublin.

13, Fionan O'Muircheartaigh (brother of Colm & Iggy) was born in Portlaoise, Laois, and was educated at UCD (BA maths & econ 1971, MA) and TCD (MSc 1972). He was Secretary General of the Dept of the Marine, and then worked for ESRI and Enterprise Irelend. He now works as a barrister.

14. Maths education expert Joe Travers was born 4 October in Portlaoise, Laois. He was educated first at TCD (BEd 1987), then taught at the primary level in Dublin, before getting his MEd at Maynooth (1995). In 1998 he joined the staff at SPD. His EdD on "Learning support for mathematics in Irish primary schools: A study of policy, practice and teachers' views" was done at QUB under Jannette Elwood in 2007. He is currently the (first) Head of School of Inclusive and Special Education at DCU.


15. Maths education expert Paddy Johnson was born 8 October in Abbeyleix, Laois, and was educated entirely at UL (BSc 1999, MSc 2002, PhD 2006+). His thesis on "An Investigation of Permanence and Exclusion in a Two-Dimensional Discrete Time Competing Species Model" was done with Mark Burke. His career has also been spent at UL, first in maths and now on the education staff. He co-authored the recent book Mathematical Modelling for Teachers: A Practical Guide to Applicable Mathematics Education (Springer, 2018).


16. Graham Kells was born in Portlaoise and grew up in Durrow. He was educated at DCU (BSc applied physics 2001) and Maynooth (PhD 2005), his thesis on "Quantum Chaos in the Delta Kicked Harmonic Oscillator" being done under Danny Heffernan and Jason Twamley. After some postdocs at Maynooth and FU Berlin, he has been at DIAS since 2014.