Boston Irish Mathematicians (Jul 2018)

Last September, we surveyed Irish mathematical connections with the California Institute of Technology, aka Caltech. This month, we do the same for Boston area universities.  While we focus largely on Irish graduates who did their doctorates at Harvard or MIT, we also cover people whose careers (before or after their Irish training or work experiences) saw them spend time at a Boston third level institution.  As usual, we include theoretical physicists as well as some people with engineering leanings.


Harvard (whose modern maths building is shown here) was founded in 1636, as the first institute of higher learning in what would in time become the USA. Pure maths doctorates from there, going back to 1873, are listed on this website.



MIT (The Massachusetts Institute of Technology) dates back to 1861, its maths department building from 1916 is shown on the left.  It took quite a while for maths there to grow past its early phase as a mere service subject to engineering. The first maths PhD from MIT was awarded in 1927.

While Harvard and MIT dominate our survey, Boston College also features, as do Boston University and Northeastern. Please alert us to any omissions.

Last updated 11 Sep 2020.



 1. Astrophysicist Ernst Öpik (1893-1985) was born in Estonia and was educated at the universities of Moscow and Tartu. His two subsequent decades on the staff at Tartu was punctuated by a spell at Harvard (1930-1934). He also spent time in Hamburg before settling at Armagh Observatory for the rest of his career, serving as the director there from 1948 to 1981.

Wikipedia / Obit / Armagh



 2. Astrophysicist Alex Dalgarno (1928-2015) was born in London, and was educated at University College London.  He then worked at QUB (1951-1967), where he supervised several theses, some of them with David Bates, including the doctorate of John Lewis, before moving to Harvard for the rest of his career.

Wikipedia / AAS / Globe / AIP


 3. Atmospheric scientist Michael McElroy was educated at QUB, getting his 1962 PhD on "Some Quantal Calculations on Collisions Involving Charged Particles". Most of his career has been spent at Harvard (1970-2004). 

Wikipedia / Harvard


 3A. John Shanahan (1935-2003) was born in Cork and was educated at UCG (BSc 1956, MSc 1957) and at Johns Hopkins (PhD 1962+). His thesis "On Problems in the Theory of Hyperbolic Partial Differential Equations" was done under Philip Hartman, and his entire career was spent at Boston College.

Death / Obit


 4. Diarmuid Ó Mathúna was born on 22 March in Cork city, and was educated at UCC, where he was awarded an NUI Travelling Studentship, and MIT, where his 1962 PhD on "Rotationally Symmetric Deformations in Helicoidal Shells" was done with Eric Reissner. He has worked at the Courant Institute, Harvard (1964-1966), NASA, the US Department of Transportation and the DIAS. His books include Mechanics, Boundary Layers and Function Spaces and Integrable Systems in Celestial Mechanics.

notable_photo  5. John Miller was born 11 Aug in Dublin. At TCD, he studied modern languages before switching to maths. His 1965 PhD from MIT on "An Improvement to the Kreiss Matrix Theorem" was done with Gil Strang. He spent three decades of his career at TCD, working on the numerical analysis of singularly perturbed differential equations, where he supervised over a dozen doctorates. His has written or edited over 30 books, and his current interests include the application of maths to renewable energy. TCD INCA

 6. Applied mathematician Alan Newell was born 5 November in Dublin.  He was educated at TCD and at MIT, where his 1966 PhD on "Transfer of Spectral Energy in Nonlinear Dispersion Systems" was done with David Benney.  His career has been spent at Clarkston University, and the Universities of Arizona and Warrick.  His interests include optics, ocean waves and turbulence, and he has supervised 16 PhDs and written 3 books.



 9. Theoretical physicist Michael Fry was born in Houston, Texas, and was educated at Georgetown (BSc 1962) and MIT (PhD 1968).  His thesis on "Scalar QED" was done under Ken Johnson.  After spells at Toronto (1968-1970), US Naval Ord Lab (1970-1973), Graz (1973-1974, Vienna (1974-1975), Tubingen (1975-1976), MPI (1976-1977), and Groningen (1978-1980), he settled at TCD.

TCD / DIAS / InspireHap


 8. Astrophysicist Michael Jamieson was born in Belfast and was educated at QUB and Harvard.  His 1969 PhD on "Time-dependent Hartree-Fock theory" was completed at Harvard with Alex Dalgarno, who had moved there in 1967.  After another year at Harvard, most of his career was spent at Glasgow.



 8. Meteorologist Ray Bates was born in Kilmore Quay, Wexford, and was educated (in physics) at UCD and MIT.  His 1969 PhD on "Dynamics of Disturbances on the Intertropical Convergence Zone" was done with Jule Charney.  After many years in the Met service, he worked at Goddard Space Flight Center, the University of Copenhagen, and UCD.



 9. Theoretical physicist Siddhartha Sen was born 16 November in Calcutta, India, and first educated at the University of Calcutta.  His 1969 MIT ScD on "A Renormalizable theory of Weak Interactions and the Axial Vector Anomaly" was done with Ken Johnson.  Shortly after that he joined the staff at TCD, where he has supervised several theses and co-authored the books Topology and Geometry for Physicists, and Elements of Statistical Mechanics: With an Introduction to Quantum Field Theory and Numerical Simulation.



10. Meteorologist Tony Hollingsworth (1943-2007) was born 6 July in Dublin, and came first in the country in his Leaving Cert.  He joined the Met service, who allowed him time off to earn degrees from UCC, and he completed his education at MIT for his 1970 PhD on "Modification of the Atmospheric Semi-Diurnal Lunar Tide by Oceanic and Solid Earth Tides" with Norman Phillips.  He had a distinguished 35-year career in the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting.

IT / Royal Met Soc


11. Ted Kelly was born 21 June in Derrynoose outside Keady, Armagh, and was educated at QUB and at MIT. His 1970 PhD on "Immersion of Symmetric Spaces" was done with Sigurdur Helgason. He taught briefly at the Universities of New Brunswick and Missouri at St Louis, before moving to the insurance industry, rising to CEO of Liberty Mutual.

IT / Times / Indo

12. Computer scientist Oliver McBryan was born in Dublin and educated at UCD and at Harvard. His 1973 PhD on "The Vector Currents in the Yukawa_2 Field Theory" was done under Arthur Jaffe. His career, which saw him move to computer science, was spent at NYU and the University of Colorado.


13. Statistician Jim Hanley was born 5 June on Bere Island, Cork, and was educated at UCC and Waterloo.  His 1973 PhD on "" was done with William Forbes.  He was at Harvard 1977-1980, and has been at McGill ever since.


14. Theoretical physicist Michael Murtagh (1943-2001) was born 27 Jul in Lurgan, Armagh. He started his education at Maynooth, and then at UCD, from which he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship. His 1974 Harvard PhD (done with Richard Wilson) on "TSP Hadron angular distributions in in-elastic muon proton scattering" was completed while he worked at Brookhaven National Labs, where he spent his whole career.


15. Applied mathematician Andrew Fowler was born in Belfast, and educated at Oxford. In 1977 he completed his doctorate on "Glacier Dynamics" with Alan Tayler. He worked at TCD and then at MIT (1980-1985) before returning to teach at Oxford. For the past decade he has been on the staff at UL, specialising in mathematical modelling. He has supervised several theses and written two books, including Mathematical Geoscience (Springer, 2011).


16. Hugh Dunne was born in Dublin and was educated at UCD and at MIT, where his 1987 PhD on "An Asymptotic Analysis of Penetrative Convection" was done with Willem Malkus. Most of his career has been spent in software development.

17. Mathematical physicist Christopher King was born 11 January in Dublin and was educated at TCD and Harvard.  His 1984 PhD on "The U(1) Higgs Model" was done with Arthur Jaffe & Tadeusz Balaban.  Most of his career has been spent at Northeastern, where he recently served as chair of the maths department.


18. Eugene Gath was born 10 Mar in Dublin and mostly grew up there and in Waterford city.  He was educated at UCD, where he won an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize, and at MIT. His 1989 PhD there on "Exact Results in Quantum Field Theory: The Spinor Lehmann Representation in Anti-de Sitter Space and the Superconformal Thirring Ghosts" was done with Dan Freedman. Most of his career has been spent at UL, where his interests now include statistics and financial mathematics.


19. Paul Feehan was born in Dublin and was educated at first in electrical engineering at UCD (BE 1982) and the Univ of Missouri, Rolla, Miss (ME 1984). He then did a masters in maths at the University of Southern California (1988). His 1992 PhD on "Geometry of the Moduli Space of Self-Dual Connections on the Four-Sphere" was done at Columbia under Duong Phong. He was at Harvard (1993-1997) and Ohio State (1997-2000) before being appointed Erasmus Smith Prof of Maths at TCD in 2000. Since 2001 he has been at Rutgers, were he has supervised 7 PhD students.


20. John Stalker was born in the USA and was educated at Stanford and Princeton.  His 1993 PhD on "Holder and L^p Estimates for Partial D-bar, Partial D-bar on B on Domains of Finite Type" was done under Joe Kohn.  He worked at MIT from 1993 to 1998 and since 2004 has been on the staff at TCD.


21. Shane Hughes was born in Dublin and was at first educated at UCD, where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship.  His 1993 PhD from Harvard on "Topics in Particle Physics" was done with Sidney Coleman.  His career has been spent in finance.

22. Martin Bridgeman was born 26 April in Dublin and was educated at TCD and at Princeton, where his 1994 PhD on "Volume Increase Under Dehn Drilling Operations" was done with Bill Thurston.  Since 1999, he has been at Boston College. He's very active in the annual William Rowan Hamilton Geometry and Topology Workshops at TCD.


23. Theoretical physicist Alfredo Iorio was born in Italy and educated at Salerno and TCD. His 1999 completed PhD on "Supersymmetric Noether Currents and Seiberg-Witten Theory" was done with Lochlainn O'Raifeartaigh & Siddharta Sen.  He worked at MIT from 2002 to 2005 and now teaches at Prague.


24.  Biostatistician Tony Fitzgerald was educated at UCC and Harvard.  His 2000 PhD on "Modeling Response to Anti-Viral Treatment Using Non-Linear Mixed Effects Models" was done under Victor DeGruttola & Florin Vaida.  Since 2005 he has been at UCC.


25. Martin Haugh was born in Ballintemple, Cork, and was at first educated at UCC, where he was awarded an NUI Travelling Studentship.  After earning a master's in stats from Oxford, he completed his 2001 PhD at MIT "Essays in Financial Engineering" under Ken Lo.  After 15 years working as a quant and teaching at Columbia, he now teaches in the business school at Imperial College.


26. Andreea Nicoara was born in Romania and educated at Stanford and Princeton.  Her 2002 PhD on "Global Regularity of the Tangential Cauchy-Riemann Operator on Weakly Pseudoconvex CR Manifolds" was done under Joe Kohn.  From 2002 to 2008 she worked at Harvard.  Since 2015, she has been on the staff at TCD.


27. Theoretical physicist Ruth Britto was born in Binghamton, New York, and was educated at MIT and Harvard.  Her 2002 PhD on "Bound States of Supersymmetric Black Holes" was done under Andrew Strominger.  Since 2014, she has been on the staff at TCD.


28. Meteorologist Paul O'Gorman from Tullamore, Offaly, studied theoretical physics and computer science in TCD.  His 2004 Caltech PhD on "Theory and Simulation of Passive Scalar Mixing in the Presence of a Mean Scalar Gradient" was done with Dale Pullin.  Since 2008, he has been on the staff at MIT.


29. Kevin McGerty was born in Dublin and was educated at Cambridge and at MIT, where his 2002 PhD on "Affine Quantum Algebras, Weyl Groups and Constructible Functions" was done with George Lusztig.  He then did stints at IAS Princeton, Chicago and Imperial, before settling at Oxford in 2010.


30. Peter Clifford was born in Bray, Wicklow, and was educated at TCD and at MIT, where his 2003 PhD on "Algebraic and Combinatorial Properties of Minimal Border Strip Tableaux" was done with Richard Stanley.  His career has mostly been spent at Science Foundation Ireland. He assists with coaching the Irish Maths Olympiad team.


31. Peter McNamara from Greystones, Wicklow, was born 6 April.  He was educated at TCD and at MIT, where his 2003 PhD on "Edge Labellings of Partially Ordered Sets" was also done with Richard Stanley.  His career has mostly been spent at Bucknell.


32. Computational biologist Shaun Mahony was born in Castlerea, Roscommon, and studied engineering at NUIG, before doing his 2005 PhD there on "Self-organising Neural Networks for Biological Sequence Analysis" with Aaron Golden.  He was at MIT (2007-2012) before settling at Penn State.

Penn State

33. David Geraghty was born in Dublin, and was educated at Cambridge and at Harvard, where his 2010 PhD on "Modularity Lifting Theorems for Ordinary Galois Representations" was done with Richard Taylor.  After a few years at the Institute of Advanced Studies, he settled at Boston College.



There are other connections not included above.  For instance, Cathleen Morawetz (née Synge, 1923-2017) was born 5 May in Toronto, and split her early years between there and Dublin when her father John Lighton Synge was on the staff at TCD.  A former Alexandra College, Dublin, pupil, she was educated at the University of Toronto, MIT (MSc 1946) and NYU.  After a one year postdoc back at MIT, her career was spent at the Courant Institute, researching nonlinear PDEs and their applications.  She served as President of the American Mathematical Society (1995-1996).

Her successor as President of the AMS (1997-1998) was mathematical physicist Arthur Jaffe (1937-  ), who was born 22 December in NYC.  His career has been spent at Harvard, and his 26 PhD students include 2 featured above.  He is a member of the RIA and since 2005 has been Chair of the Governing Board of the School of Theoretical Physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. 

Denis Weaire from Belfast, 27 years of whose career were spent at UCD and TCD, did a postdoc at Harvard (1969-1970).  Atmospheric scientist Jack McConnell, also from Belfast, did a postdoc at Harvard (1970-1972) with Michael McElroy above. 

Some other (non Irish) current staff members at Irish universities have degrees from Boston institutions too. E.g.,  UCD's Scott Rickard did his BSc and MSc at MIT, and TCD's Paschalis Karageorgis did his BSc at MIT and his MSc at Boston University.


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