The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Donegal (Jun 2017)


On 15 Jun 2017, the Annals of Irish Mathematics & Mathematicians turned two and a half years old. It then accounted for just over 3000 people, reflecting an average growth rate of 100 people per month.

One of AIMM's spin-off features is The Atlas of Irish Mathematics, which highlights some of the more notable careers, county by county. Below, we take a chronological look at the case of Donegal, surveying over 40 mathematically trained people associated with the most northwesterly county on the island. (Other such blogs will followed on a bi-monthly basis, in time making the no-longer-updated Atlas linked above obsolete.)



There are additional Donegal maths connections that could be explored on another occasion. For instance, QUB's topologist Declan McCartan was born Donegal as a result of a wartime temporary family relocation, but grew up in Belfast. Also, the maths teaching staff at Letterkenny Institute of Technology includes people originally from outside Donegal who now call it home.

Last updated 30 Dec  2022.


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 1. Thomas Wilson (1726-1799) was born somewhere in Donegal, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1746, BA 1748, MA & Fellowship 1753, BD 1758, DD 1764, Senior Fellow), where he was in the same class as Oliver Goldsmith.  He was Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural & Experimental Philosophy there (1769-1786) and Archbishop King's Lecturer in Divinity (1785), following which he became the rector of Ardstraw (Tyrone).



 2. John Kells Ingram (1823-1907) was born 7 July in Templecarne, Pettigo, Donegal, and was brought up there and in Newry, Down. He was educated at TCD (BA 1842, MA 1850), where he excelled in maths, both as a student and early in his long career there. He has been co-credited with introducing the geometric concept of inversion in a circle. He was professor of oratory and Greek, and rose to the rank of vice provost. He is remembered today as an economist and as a poet; indeed he penned "The Memory of the Dead" (aka "Who Fears to Speak of '98"). Also, as the librarian at TCD, it was he who first had the Book of Kells put on public display.

Wikipedia / DUB


 3. Patrick O'Doherty was born c. 1849 somewhere in Donegal. A clergyman, he was an examiner of maths for the Intermediate Education Board.

1901 Census

 4. Robert Graham (1850-1906) was born somewhere in Donegal and was educated at TCD (BA & Gold Medal 1874, MA 1877), where he had also been a Scholar. He taught there until 1888, then taught at Kingston School in Dublin and later at Midleton College in Cork. He wrote the books Algebraic Factors (1885) and Elementary Algebra (1889).

Book / Death / 1901 Census 


 5. William Dickey (1851-1922) was born 7 April in Carnowen, Donegal, and was educated at Queen's, Belfast (BSc 1873, MSc 1874).  His career was spent as a clergyman in Scotland.



 6. John Alexander (1865-1942) was born 12 November in Imlick, Carrigans, Donegal.  He was educated at Queen's, Belfast (BA 1886, MA 1889) and at Cambridge (8th wrangler 1890, MA 1895).  He then became headmaster at Tavistock Grammar School in Devon, where he served until 1928.



 7. James Burkitt (1870-1959) was born 20 August in Killybegs, Donegal, and was educated at Queen's, Belfast (BA 1891, BE 1892), where he was a senior scholar.  His career was spent as a civil engineer, mostly in Fermanagh. He was also a notable ornithologist.

1901 census / 1911 census / Wikipedia / DIB / Robins

 8. Agnes Scott (1879-1975) was born 12 January in Moville, Inishowen, Donegal.  She was educated at Alexandra College in Dublin, graduating via the Royal University of Ireland (BA 1902), a few years before TCD (from which she later got a DipEd) awarded women degrees.  Her career included teaching at Dollymount (1904-1906), Alexandra (1907-1907), Wallasey High School (Cheshire, 1909-1910), Maynard School (Exeter, 1910-1916), St Mary's College (Paddington, 1916-1917), and the High School (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1917-1919- ).

1901 Census / Teaching / Woman's World

 9. Samuel G. Stewart (1885-1918) was born 15 December in Drumgun, halfway between Pettigo and Donegal town.  He was educated at TCD (Scholar 1906, BA 1908, MA & Fellow 1911), and was on the staff before dying young as a WWI casualty.

1901 census / 1911 census / Death / Grave

10. Henry O'Friel (1892-1977) was born 19 March in Roancarrig, Castletown, Donegal, and was educated at UCD (BA 1913). His career was spent in the civil service, born in the department of justice and in the agricultural sector.


11. Margaret "Mina" Funston (1893-1968) was born 7 August in Tullycarn, near Pettigo, Donegal, and was educated at TCD (scholar & BA 1915). She taught at Victoria College in Belfast.

1901 census / 1911 census / Brother / Grave

12. Physicist Patrick McLaughlin (1899-1973) was born 28 February in Scotland, and grew up mostly in Ballyshannon, Donegal. He was educated first at Maynooth (BA 1919), and following his ordination he taught at the Irish College in Paris. He did his doctorate (on ionisation of Parisian air) under Charles Morain at the Univ of Paris (1928). He spent 3 decades at professor of physics back at Maynooth, also serving as Vice President, and boosting the science holding at the museum there.

Museum / Obit / Book / NUI / 1911 Census

13. Frank Smith (1912-1987) was born 31 December in Gleneealy, east of Carndonagh, Inishowen, Donegal. (His father Charles was a TCD maths grad from 1889, and his mother Dora Harden received an RUI maths degree in 1897.)  He was educated at TCD (scholar 1932, BA 1934).  He taught briefly at Campbell College in Belfast, as well as at some schools in England, but the bulk of his career was spent in the civil service in Malaya.

14. Daniel Cunnea (1913-1990) was born 14 August in Inver, half way between Killybegs and Donegal town, and grew up nearby in Croagh.  He was educated in physics and maths physics at Maynooth (BSc 1934), and at Dunboyne (PhD in education 1940).  He later taught at and in due course served as president of St Eunan's in Letterkenny, before spending a quarter of a century as a parish priest.

St Eunan's / Link

15. Manus Doherty (1916-1960) was born 23 January in Buncrana, Donegal, and was educated in maths and exp physics at Maynooth (BSc 1937).  He taught at St Columb's (Derry, 1941-1948) and at the Cistercian Abbey (Roscrea, 1948-1959), before moving to Monterey & Fresno in California for parish work. Sadly, he died with a year in a car accident.

Maynooth / Bio / Grave

16. Neil McCarron (1918-2003) was born 27 July in Redcastle, southwest of Moville, Inishowen, Donegal.  He was educated in maths physics at Maynooth (BSc 1940), and taught for over 3 decades at St Columb's in Derry before spending another quarter of a century as a parish priest.

Art / Logo / Grave

17. James Mura McMonagle (1919-2011) was born 1 Aug in Altaghaderry, Killea, Donegal, right across the border from Derry, where he went to school. He was educated at UCD (BA 1940, MA 1941, BSc in physics 1942). His career was spent in the Met office.


18. Computer pioneer Kay McNulty (1921-2006) was born 12 or 13 February in Creeslough, near Dunfanaghy, Donegal, but family circumstances led to her growing up in Philadelphia.  She studied maths at Chestnut Hill College (BA 1942) and went on to become a pioneering computer programmer on the ENIAC.  History remembers Kay under her later married names, Mauchly and Antonelli.

Wikipedia / MacTutor / IT

19. Padraig O Gallchobhair (1922-2001) was born in Gweedore, Donegal, and grew up in Derrybeg.  He was educated at the Glenties McDevitt Institute (1943?).  He taught for many decades at Kevin St.

20. Physicist and philosopher Ernan McMullin (1924-2011) was born 13 October in Ballybofey, Donygal.  He was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1945) and at Louvain (PhD in philosophy 1954).  His career included a year at DIAS (1949-1950) and 4 decades at Notre Dame, where he served as head of the department of philosophy and authored several books.

Wikipedia / Notre Dame / NCSE

21. Fintan Gallagher was born 17 February in Downings, Donegal, and was educated at UCG (BSc 1964, MSc 1966). Thanks to an exchange studentship program, he pursued postgraduate study in maths at the University of Geneva, but he soon switched to computers.  Most of his career was spent in computer planning and design with IBM in Nice, France.  His daughters Maureen (Clerc) and Isabelle (Mazelet) both ended up in maths-related research.  Isabelle is professor in Paris-Diderot University, and Maureen is into brain research at INRIA in Sophia-Antipolis, near Nice.

22. Brian Mollowney was born in Ballyshannon, Donegal, and was educated at UCD (BSc 1965).  Nothing else is known.

23. Brendan Quigley was born in Lifford, Donegal, and mostly grew up in Strabane, Tyrone. He was educated at QUB (BA 1966, MA 1967) and at Indiana University at Bloomington (PhD 1970 on "Shape Theory, Approaching Theory and a Hurewicz Theorem" under Jan Jaworowski).  An algebraic topologist by training, he taught at UCD for 4 decades, where he was an early proponent of the use of LaTeX software.


24. Mathematical physicist Johnny Gallagher was born in Dungloe, Donegal, and received all of his education at UCG (BSc 1966?, MSc 1967?, PhD on "Some Problems in Three Dimensional Elasticity" under Jim Flavin 1976).  He taught at Dundalk IT for over 35 years.


25. Joe Varilly was born in Carrigans, Donegal, east of Letterkenny, and grew up in Dungloe.  He was educated at UCD (BSc 1972, MSc 1973), where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship, and at the University of Rochester (PhD 1980 on "Dilations of Dynamical Evolutions" under Gérard Emch).  He has spent his career at the University of Costa Rica, and has written two books on noncommutative geometry.  His son Tony Várilly-Alvarado is also a mathematician.

MathSciNet / Costa Rica / Costa Rica 2


26. Jimmy McLaughlin was born in Glentogher, Inishowen, Donegal, and was at first educated at the University of Ulster in Coleraine (BSc 1979).  a long gap, he pursued postgraduate work at UCD (MSc 1996) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (PhD 2002 on "On the Convergence and Divergence of q-Continued Fractions On and Off the Unit Circle" under Doug Bowman).  Most of his subsequent career has been spent at West Chester University in Pennsylvania.  His research interests include integer partitions, continued fractions, Q-series and the mathematics of Ramanujan.  He has written a  book entitled "Topics and Methods in q-Series."

MathSciNet / West Chester

27. Ivor Johnson was born in Donegal and was educated at QUB (BSc 1981?, PhD 1985 on "Modularity and Distributivity in Directed Multilattices" under Derek Burgess 1985).  Nothing is known about his career.


28. Chris Boyd was born in Bunbeg, Donegal, and was educated at TCD (BA 1986, MSc by thesis under Donal O'Donovan 1989) and UCD (PhD 1992 on "Preduals of the Space of Holomorphic Functions on a Frechet Fpace" under Sean Dineen).  He now teaches at UCD, and his research interests include functional analysis, infinite dimensional holomorphy, and the geometry of Banach spaces.

MathSciNet / UCD


29. Ronan Flatley was born 27 March in Dublin and was brought up in Sligo town and Letterkenny, Donegal.  He was educated entirely at UCD (BE 1989, BA 2001, MA 2004, PhD 2012 on "Symbol Algebras, Involutions and Trace Forms" under Thomas Unger & Dave Lewis), and now teaches at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.  His interests include central simple algebras with involution and the algebraic theory of quadratic forms.  He authored the 2022 book MIghTY Maths: Mathematical Investigations for Transition Year.

MathSciNet / MIC

30. Paddy Hannigan was born in Letterkenny, Donegal, and was educated at DCU (BSc 1989, MSc 1992 by thesis with Emmanuel Buffet) and at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown (PhD 1998 on "Random Polynomials" with Kambiz Farahmand).  A probabilist by training, his career has been spent at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology.


31. Control theory expert Seán McLoone was born in Glenties, Donegal, and was educated in electrical engineering at QUB (ME 1992, PhD 1996 on "Neural Network Training for Modelling and Control" under George Irwin).  His career has been spent at QUB, Maynooth and then back at QUB.  He has supervised over a dozen PhDs.

32. John Cyril Murray was born in Clonmel, Tipperary, then lived in Wexford before his family settled down in Letterkenny, Donegal. He was educated first at UCD (BE 1990, MSc 1993 by thesis under Sean Dineen), where he won an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize, and then at the University Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (PhD 1998 on "Dade's Conjecture for the Mclaughlin Simple Group" under Everett Dade). An algebraist, his career has been spent at Maynooth.

MathSciNet / Maynooth


33. Maria Meehan was born in Donegal town, and was educated at UCG (BSc 1992, MSc 1993, PhD 1997 with thesis on "Linear Integral and Integrodifferential Equations" done under Donal O'Regan), where she won an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize.  She teaches at UCD.  She has co-authored 3 books on DE, and now researches how students learn advanced mathematics at university level.

MathSciNet / UCD


34. Control theory expert Séamus McLoone was born in Glenties, Donegal, and was educated in electrical engineering at QUB (BE 1996, PhD 2000 on "Nonlinear Identification Using Local Model Networks" under George Irwin).  His career has been spent at Maynooth.


35. Anne O'Donnell is believed to have been born in Clogher, Barnesmore, Donegal. She was educated at DCU (MSc by thesis with Alastair Wood on "The Work of G.G. Stokes in Evaluating the Airy Rainbow Integral and its Ramifications Today").


36. Helen Purtill (née Mac Mullen) was born in May in Killybegs, Donegal, and was educated at DCU (BSc 1996, PhD 2000 on "Schwarz Domain Decomposition Methods for Singularly Perturbed Differential Equations" done under Eugene O'Riordan) and at Sheffield Hallam (MSc 2013). She has long been a statistician at the University of Limerick, where she is a member of the Health Research Institute and is actively involved in interdisciplinary research with assorted collaborators.



37.Theoretical physicist Francis Dolan (1977-2011) was born in Sligo and grew up in Killygordon, near Ballybofey, Donegal. He was educated at UCG (BSc 1997, MSc 1998), where he was an NUI Travelling Studentship winner, and at Cambridge (PhD 2003 on "Aspects of Superconformal Quantum Field Theory" with Hugh Osborn). His short career was very productive. His interests included superconformal characters and partition functions.

MathSciNet / Surrey / Inspire / Dedication

38. Martin Kerin was born in Buncrana, Donegal, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 2001, MSc 2003 by thesis under David Wraith) and at the University of Pennsylvania (PhD 2008 on "Biquotients with Almost Positive Curvature" under Wolfgang Ziller).  He worked at the University of Münster for over a decade, and is now at NUIG. His interests include positive and non-negative sectional curvature, and the geometry and topology of homogeneous spaces and biquotients.

MathSciNet / NUIG

39. Data scientist Meghan Stephens was born in England and brought up on Inishowen, Donegal.  She was educated at QUB (BSc 2002) and NUIG (MSc 2004, PhD 2009 on "Numerical Methods for Singularly Perturbed Differential Equations" under Niall Madden).  Her career so far has been in New Zealand, first working for the meteorological service there, and then as a data scientist.


40. Jonny McLaughlin was born in Moville, Donegal.  He was educated at NUIG (BSc 2004?, PhD 2010 on "Moduli Spaces of Planar Realizations of Weighted Graphs" done with James Cruickshank).  He has taught at St Pat's Drumcondra since then.

41. John Harvey was born in Carndonagh, Inishowen, Donegal, and was educated at UCD (BSc 2004, MSc 2006) and at the University of Notre Dame (PhD 2014 on "Around Palais' Covering Homotopy Theorem" with Karsten Grove). A differential geometer by training, he recently completed a postdoc at the University of Münster.  His research interests lie in Alexandrov geometry, Riemannian geometry and transformation groups.


42. Jason Quinn was born somewhere in Donegal and was educated at DCU (BSc 2008, PhD 2012 on "Numerical Methods for Nonlinear Singulary Perturbed Differential Equations" under Eugene O'Riordan).  After teaching at DCU and DIT for several years he switched to finance.


43. Stephen Russell was born near Letterkenny, Donegal, and was educated at NUIG (BSc 2011, MSc 2012, PhD 2016 on "Sparse Grid Methods for Singularly Perturbed Problems" under Niall Madden).  After a few years at the Beijing Computational Science Research Center he now works for Valeo in Tuam.


44. James O'Malley was born in Glenties, Donegal, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 2012), where he now tutors.  His studies have spanned maths and music, and he plans to complete a PhD in the former.  He recently won a ‘Teaching Hero’ award from the National Forum for Teaching and Learning.



45. Konrad Mulrennan was born in Letterkenny, Donegal, and was 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 co-supervised by Leo Creedon.  He now teaches at IT Sligo.