The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Tipperary (Apr 2019)

We head southeast to Tipperary for our 12th bi-monthly regional Irish focused blog, following previous ones on mathematical people associated with Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway and Monaghan.

We are hence 2 years into a 6-year survey of contributions from each county of Ireland, as the highlighting of people from (or working in) the larger cities will span several blogs. For instance, the Belfast Before 1900 one only covered about a quarter of the known Belfast people up to the present age.

Early Tipperary maths names of note (O'Riordan, Sadleir, Luby and Jellett) join high achievers from after 1900 (de Brún, Bernal, Tobin, Carroll, O'Donoghue, Gleeson, etc) below. There are several often overlooked people from the almost 100 Irish (or Irish-based) men who contributed problems or solutions to both the Mathematical Visitor and the Educational Times in the second half of the 1800s (future blogs will attempt to highlight all of them).

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 Eugene Gath (UL), among others, for valuable input. Last updated 13 Jul 2023.


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0. John Keogh (1650?-1725) was allegedly born in Clooncleagh, east of Thurles, Tipperary. He was educated at TCD (BA 1675??, MA 1678), where had been a scholar. He spent most of life as a clergyman in Roscommon, pursuing scholarship in Hebrew and what he viewed as the application of maths to theological issues.

Wiki / Lib Bio / DNB


1. Michael O'Riordan was from Roscrea, Tipperary. In the mid 1780s he was listed as "Doctor O'Riordan, Nautical Professor; Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh; Doctor of Science; Professor of Mathematics". He moved from Roscrea to Dublin in 1788, and appeared in 1790 as being in charge of the English and Mathematical Academy in Kilkenny town. Starting two years later he styled himself professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in Carlow. Little else is known about him, but he did teach John Conwill below. He made mathematical contributions to several periodicals of the era. (Thanks to Michael Monahan for valuable input here.)

Grant's Almanac (1783-1785) / Athologia Hibernica (1794) / The Gentleman's Mathematical Companion (1798) / Ladies Diary

2. Franc Sadleir (1775-1851) was born in Tipperary, and was educated at TCD (BA 1795, MA 1805), where he taught for almost half a century, and also served as vice-provost.

Wikipedia / TCD / Snipview

3. Thomas Luby (1800-1870) was born in Clonmel, Tippeary. He was educated at TCD (BA 1821, MA 1825, DD 1840) where he spent his career, including a stint as Donegall lecturer of maths (1832-1847). His books included An Introductory Treatise on Plane and Spherical Trigonometry (1827) and An Introductory Treatise to Physical Astronomy (1828).

Bio 1 / Bio 2

4. John Jellett (1817-1888) was born 25 December in Cashel, Tipperary. He was educated at (BA 1837, MA 1843), being one of the first to earn the maths degree introduced in 1835. He then taught there for many decades, and also served as provost. He was an early supporter of the proposal to admit women to the university, and served as commissioner of Irish national education. He authored the books An Elementary Treatise on the Calculus of Variations (1850), A Treatise on the Theory of Friction (1872), and (with Sam Haughton) The Collected Works of the James MacCullagh, LL.D. (1880) and The Mathematical and other Tracts of the late James M'Cullagh (1882?).

Wikipedia / TCD / Ask

5. William Casey (1830??-1889) was born in Ballycohy, Lattin, west of Tipperary town. He attended TCD and then in 1850 moved to New South Wales, where at various times he worked as a surveyor, teacher, school inspector and engineer. The last two decades of his life were spent in San Francisco, where he styled himself professor of maths. He contributed to the Mathematical Visitor and the Educational Times. One obit mistakenly claimed kinship with Limerick geometer John Casey (1820-1891).

Obit1 / Obit 2 / Mathematical Visitor / Edu Times

6. John Birch (1841?-1923) was born in Tipperary and was educated at TCD (BA 1860, MA 1864). He started his career as a clergyman in Mulligar, then taught at the Royal Military Academy (Woolwich) and in London, before resuming parish work near Bunratty, Clare. For over 2 decades, he contributed to the Educational Times.

Edu Times / Prabook / 1901 Census / 1901 Census

7. Thomas Power (1860-1920) was born in Herbertstown, Kilcullane, near Bruff, Limerick. He was educated both at the Irish College Paris and the University of Paris. He was professor of maths at St Patrick's College in Thurles, Tipperary (1888-1911), and then served as a clergyman in Limerick.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Obit 1 / Obit 2

8. William McClelland (1859-1928) was born 4 June in Loughgall, north of Armagh town, and was educated in physics at TCD (BA 1881, MA 1885?), where he was also a scholar. He served as headmaster at schools in Santry, Portalington, and for 24 years at the Grammar School in Clonmel. He wrote books, both on spherical trigonometry and on geometry. He contributed to the Educational Times. (Photo courtesy of Chris Cullen.)

Obit 1 / Obit 2 / Educational Times

9. Doctor Benjamin Steede (1863-1920) was born in June in Nenagh. He grew up there, in Galway, and in Belfast. He was educated at Queen's Belfast and at TCD (BA 1887, MA 1890, MD 1894). His career was spent as a GP in Newcastle and Rostrevor, Down, but he remained interested in maths, and contributed to the Educational Times and the Proceedings of the RIA. His son George died in WWII in 1941. (Photo courtesy of Mike Steede.)

Educational Times / PRIA

 9B. Frank Pilkington was born in Newchapel, and was edcated at TCD (BA 1897, Bishop Law's Prize 1898, MA 1900). He taught at Repton School in Derbyshire until his relatively early death.

Marriage / Son


10. Tom Morrissey (1877-1942) was born 25 August on the Waterford side of the Old Bridge in Clonmel, Tipperary. He was educated at Blackrock College (BA 1896, BL & ML), and worked for 2 decades in the Public Records Office before becoming Assistant Commissioner for Intermediate Education.

1901 Census? / 1911 Census? / Obit


10B. John English (1884-1959) was born 7 May in Chamberlainstown, Tipperary, northeast of Cahir, and was educated at Blackrock College and at UCD (BA 1912). Having taught at Rockwell, and become a priest, he moved to St Mary's College, Trinidad, where he was later appointed as president. He briefly served as president of Blackrock College during WWII, then returned to Trinidad for most of the rest of his life.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Rockwell / Bio

11. James Rentoul (1886-1918) was born 1 January in Darlington, Durham, and grew up there and in Clonmel, Tipperary. He was educated at Queen's College Galway (BA 1906), and spent his brief career as a clergyman in Belfast and Rostrevor, Down. He died in France, a WWI casualty (and his son James was a WWII casualty).

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Death

12. Patrick Cormack (1887-1944) hailed from Cloone, near Templemore, Tipperary, and was educated at the Royal College of Science for Ireland (RCScI) (BE 1908). After working for the Irish Land Commission he taught mechanical engineering at RCScI and then at UCD. He published a lot, and spoke at the 1924 ICM in Toronto. In 1936, UCD awarded him DSc. He edited The Irish Engineers Handbook which appeared the year he died.

ICM / Grace's

13. Pádraig de Brún (aka Paddy Browne, 1889-1960) was born 13 October in Grangemockler, Tipperary, near the county borders with Kilkenny and Waterford.  He was educated first at UCD (BSc 1909, MSc 1910) as it transitioned from an RUI to an NUI constituent college.  He earned the first NUI Travelling Scholarship in mathematical science and used it to go to the Sorbonne, where in 1913 he earned his doctorate on "Sur un probleÌme d'inversion poseì par Abel, et sur ses geìneìralisations" under Émile Picard.  After a year at Göttingen, he spent 3 decades at St. Patrick's College, Maynooth (1914-1945), before becoming president of UCG. A priest and a classics and Irish scholar, as well as a mathematician, he wrote the poem "Tháinig Long ó Valparaiso" which was well known to several generations of Irish schoolchildren.

Wikipedia / Aimn / Family / 1901 Census

14. Harry Kennedy (1887-1968) was born 28 January in Toor, Tippperary, south of Nenagh. He was educated at UCD, first in maths science (BA 1909, MA 1910) then in physics (BSc 1911, MSc 1912, PhD 1917), winning but not using the first NUI Travelling Studentship in physics. His doctorate was awarded for previously published papers with UCD's John McClelland. He had taught maths at UCD for several years, before turning his attention to agricultural economics. From 1926 to 1963, he was secretary of the Irish Agricultural Organisation Society, and NUI awarded him an honorary DEcon in 1954. He was also a director of the ESB from its inception. His was father of mathematician Maurice Kennedy (1924-1994), whose career was spent at UCD.

Obit / Independent / 1901 Census / 1911 Census

15. James J. Smith (1892-1983) was born 29 June in Clonmel, Tipperary, and grew up there and in Cork city and Dublin. He was educated first at UCD (BSc 1913, MSc 1914), then earned electrical engineering degrees from Union College in Schenectady, New York (MSc 1919, PhD 1923). His thesis was on "The Solution of Differential Equations by a Method Similar to Heaviside's". Most of his career was spent with General Electric nearby, publishing maths on and off, and he also lectured from time to time at Union College. He spoke at two ICMs, the 1928 one in Bologna, and the 1932 one in Zürich.

Wikipedia / ICM / 1901 Census

16. Angel Rainsford (later Wilson, 1899-1984) was born 17 February in Roscrea, Tipperary, and grew up there and in Clare and Offaly. She was educated at TCD (BA 1921), where she had been a maths scholar. Later, following the death of her husband, she taught at Glen Ban (Abbeyleix, starting in 1939, where she was headmistress) and in Banbridge (Down, throughout the 1950s). Photo courtesy of Joan Dawson.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Family / Grave

17. John Bernal (1901-1971) was born 10 May near Nenagh, Tipperary, and grew up there and in England. He was educated at Cambridge (Emmanuel, BA 1922), publishing a paper on the application of quaternions to space groups in crystal structure in his final year. His career was spent as a pioneering crystallographer, first at the Faraday Lab in London, then the Cavendish Lab back at Cambridge, and finally at Birkbeck College. He was also involved in the war effort and political activism, being a devout communist.
Wikipedia / Enc Brit / Tipp Star / IT / 1911 Census

18. Henry Yates (1908-1954) was born 5 May in Nenagh, Tipperary, and grew up there and in Belfast.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1930, MA 1933), and taught there till 1933.  He then worked for the English Electric Company in Rugby (1933-1944) and subsequently at the Parsons and Marine Engineering Turbine Research and Development Association in Newcastle-on-Tyne (1944-1954), dying comparatively young.

1911 Census / Obit


19. Stanley Treanor (1916-1994) was born 5 February in Roscrea, Tipperary, and grew up there and in Belfast.  He was educated at TCD (scholar 1936, BA 1938) and Oxford (University College).  After 20 years in the civil service in India & Pakistan, he taught maths at St Andrew's in Dublin (1963-1981).


20. Kilian Rohan (1916-1999) was born 31 July in Ballina, Tipperary, accross the Shannon from Killaloe, Clare. He was educated at UCD (BA 1938, MA 1939), then spent 4 decades in the Met Office, where he rose to the rank of director and authored 2 books.

Bio / IT / Books

21. Matt Delaney (1927-2014) was born 26 November in Tipperary, and moved to the USA in 1947. He was educated at first at Immaculate Heart College, Los Angeles (BA 19580), and Notre Dame (1960), and later at Ohio State (PhD 1971). His thesis on "Discrete Euclidean Universes And Associated Automorphisms" was done with Zassenhaus. His career was mostly spent teaching at Immaculate Heart and later at Mount St Mary's, also in LA, at both of which he also served as dean.


22. Sean Swords (1930-2012) was born 21 November in Dundrum, Tipperary, northwest of Cashel. He grew up there and in Wicklow and in Dublin. He was educated at UCD (BSc physics 1950) and at TCD (PhD 1983). His thesis on "A Technical History of the Beginnings of Radar" was done with Brendan Scaife. He served in the Air Corps (1951-1979), and then he taught EE at TCD (1979-1995). (Thanks to Brendan Scaife for the photo.)

Obit / TCD

23. Seán Tobin (1930-2023) was born 6 Jan in Moneygall, Tipperary, and grew up there and in Carrick-on-Suir (and later New Ross). He was educated at UCG (BA 1950, MA 1951), and at Manchester (PhD 1954). His thesis "On Groups of Exponent Four" was done with Graham Higman. He spent 40 years at UCG, spearheading an algebra and group theory focus there. He is perhaps best known for his early work on the Burnside Problem.

NUIG / Burnside Problem


24. Applied mathematician and engineer Mike Carroll (1936-2016) was born 8 December in Thurles, Tipperary, and grew up in Two-Mile-Borris, east of there. He studied mechanical engineering at UCG (BE 1958, ME 1959) and at Brown (PhD 1965). His thesis on "Electro-Magneto-Optical Effects" was done with Ron Rivlin. He spent his career at Berkeley and Rice University, where he supervised many theses and served as dean. NUI awarded him DSc in 1986. His interests were in mechanics, electromagnetism, and acoustics. He was also a playwright, and had crosswords published in the New York Times.

IT / MMS / Memorial

25. Seamus (Moss) Murray (1939-1983) was born 20 July in Dublin, and grew up there and in Nenagh, Tipperary. He was educated at UCD (BA 1960, MA 1961) and was awarded an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize in 1964. He studied for a while at Caltech, and spent his career at United Aircraft, the University of Southampton, and the University of Petroleum Minerals (Dahara), dying relatively young.

26. Mick O'Mahony was born in Mullinahone, Tippperary, halfway between Clonmel and Kilkenny town. He was educated at UC (BA 1962, MA 1963, MBA 1980), where he earned an NUI Travelling Scholarship. He also studied at the London School of Economics, and spent his career as an actuary.

27. Tony O'Farrell was born 28 May in Dublin, grew up there and in Templemore, Tipperary. He was educated first at UCD (BSc 1967, MSc 1969), where he earned an NUI Travelling Scholarship. and then at Brown (PhD 1973). His doctorate on "Capacities in Uniform Approximation" was done under Brian Cole. He spent over 35 years teaching at Maynooth, supervising 5 PhD students, and also helped to set up the department of computer science. His books (and publishing house, Logic Press) reflect his diverse mathematical interests. On 16 Oct 1990, he organised the first Hamilton Walk to Broom Bridge, in Dublin.

Maynooth / Logic House / Hamilton Walk

28. Mathematics education expert John O'Donoghue was born 24 February in Nenagh, Tipperary.  He was educated at St John Fisher College in Rochester (BA 1969) and at Rensselaer Polytechic (MA physics 1971), both in New York, and later at Loughborough (PhD 1978) in the English midlands. His thesis on "Educating and Training Mathematics Teachers for Secondary Schools in Ireland: a New Perspective on Teacher Education" was done under Avi Bajpai. Most of his career was spent at Thomond College and then at UL, where he supervised over 30 theses at master's and PhD level. His books include Real-World Problems for Secondary School Mathematics Students: Case Studies (2011).  He was founding co-director of the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL, now now EPI-STEM).  His expertise include secondary level maths teacher education, adult maths education/numeracy, service maths teaching, and math support.

UL / ResearchGate

29. Mechanical engineer Jim Casey was born in Tipperary town, and grew up there and in Golden (closer to Cashel). He was educated at UCD (BE 1971) and at Berkeley (PhD 1980). His thesis on "Small Deformations Superposed on Large Deformations in a General Elastic-plastic Material" was done with Paul Naghdi. Since 1990 he was worked at Berkeley, where he has supervised several PhDs. His books include Exploring Curvature (Teubner, 1996).


30. Bishop John A. Ryan was born 27 February in Cormackstown, Holycross, Tipperary. His mathematics education was all completed at UCC (BA 1974, MA 1982, PhD 2002). His master's by thesis was done with Des MacHale, and his doctorate on "Irreducible Goppa Codes" was done with Pat Fitzpatrick. For over 30 years he was a missionary priest working in Malawi. He taught for many years at Mzuzu University, specialising in coding theory.

Mawali / Bishop

31. Neil Hallinan was born 21 March in Aughavoulimane, Tipperary, and was educated at first at UCD (BA in maths & econ 1975) and Maynooth (HDip 1976).  For 36 years he taught at St. Mary's, Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin. Along the way he earned an MA from UWE Bristol (1997).  He's been involved with the IMTA since the early 1980s, and for 10 years served as editor of the IMTA Newsletter, recently co-ordinating their Archives.

IMTA 1 / IMTA 2 / Web

32. Jim Leahy was born in Tipperary town. He was educated at London University (BSc 1976) and UCC (MSc 1978). From 1981 on, he taught at Thomond, then UL, retiring in 2008.

33. Meteorologist Aidan Bent was born in Nenagh (?), Tipperary, and was educated at UCG (BSc 1979, MSc 1980) where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize. He has worked for the Met service in Shannon since 1980.


34. Bernard Murphy was born in Lattin, Tipperary, and was educated at UCD (BE, 1983, MA Econ 1994?) and at Warwick (PhD 2001). His thesis on ?? was done with ??. He worked at the ESB before teaching at UL (1994-2017).


35. Applied mathematician James Gleeson was born 19 April in Nenagh, Tipperary, and was first educated at UCD (BSc 1994, MSc 1995), where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship. His 1999 PhD from Caltech on "Random Advection of a Passive Scalar" was done with Phil Saffman. He started his career at UCC before settling at the University of Limerick, where he currently co-directs the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry (MACSI). He has supervised many theses.


36. James Murray (son of Seamus above) was born in Nenagh, Tipperary, and was educated at UCD (BSc 1995, MSc 1996). His career has been spent as a quant.

37. Mia Treacy was born in Fethard, Tipperary, and was educated at Froebel (BEd 1997), Mary Immaculate College (MEd 2004) and DCU (EdD 2015). Her thesis on "Spoon-feeding to Tongue-biting and Beyond: Implementing a Reform Approach to Mathematics Teaching in an Irish Primary School" was done with Thérèse Dooley & Dolores Corcoran. Most of her career has been spent teaching, from 2006-107 she was on secondment to the department of education. Since 2018 she was been at Mary Immaculate College. She also has credentials in legal studies, and her recent research focusses on educational policy and child protection.

MIC / LinkedIn / ResearchGate

38. Mathematical physicist Deirdre Kilbane was born in Ballycahill, Tipperary, west of Thurles, and was educated at UCD (BSc physics 1999) and Maynooth (PhD 2004).  Her thesis on "Searches for Signatures in Quantum Chaos" was done with Dan Heffernan and Gerry O'Sullivan.  Since then she has worked at UCD (2009-2014 & 2016-2018) and at the University of Kaiserslautern (2014-2016).  In 2018 she joined WIT's TSSG, and recently became director of research at the Walton Institute there.

Walton Institute / LinkedIn / GoogleScholar

39. Quantitative finance expert Mark Cummins was born somewhere in Tipperary and was educated at Mary Immaculate College (BA 1999), DCU (MSc 2000) and UL (PhD 2006). His thesis was done with Bernard Murphy. He worked for BP and taught at UL before settling at DCU. He is co-author Topics in Numerical Methods for Finance (Springer 2012).


40. Meteorologist Sandra Spillane was born in Thurles, Tipperary, and was educated at DIT (BSc 2003, PhD 2008) and UCD (MSc 2008). Her doctorate on "A Study of Boundary Layer Flow with No-slip and Slip Boundary Conditions" was done with Laurence Crane. Her whole career has been at the Met office.

Met Eireann

41. Statistician Anne Carew was born in Clonoulty-Rossmore near Thurles, Tipperary, and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 2004, MSc 2005). Her 2019 PhD on "Routine Health Surveillance Data: a 21-year Quantitative Cross-sectional Study Of First-time Opioid Addiction Treatment among Older Adults" was done at TCD with Catherine Comiskey. She works there and at the Health Research Board.


42. Statistician Norma Bargary (née Coffey) was born 25 February in Cahir, Tipperary, and was educated at UL (BSc 2005, PhD 2008). Her thesis on “Functional Principal Components Analysis in a Linear Mixed Effects Model Framework" was done with Kevin Hayes. After a few years teaching at NUIG and UCD, she is now back at UL. She works on the statistical modelling of time-course/functional data using the mixed effects model, as applied to the analysis of biological data.


43. Statistician Michelle Carey was born somewhere in Tipperary and was educated at UL (BSc 2008, PhD 2012). Her thesis on "Generalised Smoothing in Functional Data Analysis" was done with Eugene Gath & Kevin Hayes. After a couple of years each at the University of Rochester and McGill, she now teaches at UCD.


44. Siobhán Kehir (née Martin) was born in Cahir, Tipperary, and was educated at UCC (BA year?, MA 2010). Her master's thesis on "Mathematics in Queen's College, Cork: 1849-1913" was done with Des MacHale. She taught maths in Meath until her until untimely death.


45. Statistician Kevin Burke was born in Nenagh, Tipperary, and educated entirely at UL (BSc 2010, PhD 2014). His thesis on "Multi-Parameter Regression Survival Models" was done with Gilbert MacKenzie & Eamonn Murphy. He now teaches at UL where his research interests include survival analysis, i.e., is the statistical analysis of time-to-event data. He also directs MACSI's Industrial Mathematics Unit.


46. Owen McGrath was born in Tipperary. He was educated at Limerick IT (BSc 2014), NUIG (HDipAppSci 2015) and UL (MSc 2017) and now teaches at LIT.