The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Sligo (Jun 2019)

We head northwest to Sligo for our 13th bi-monthly "county" blog following previous ones on people associated with Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan and Tippperary.  This marks the start of the third year of such regional blogs, and we estimate that about four more year's worth are on the way.

We highlight both people who were born or reared in Sligo, and people who worked there.  In particular, we include many staff members who teach maths or statistics at IT Sligo (later rebranded as ATU), which in 1997 morphed from the former Regional Technical College founded in 1970.

Sligo is a small county, whose native son George Stokes left the biggest footprints in scientific circles.  Since 2019 was the 200th anniversary of his birth, and that September, Cambridge celebrated in style.  See also the terrific new book out on him: George Gabriel Stokes: Life, Science and Faith (Oxford University Press, July 2019), edited by Mark McCartney, Andrew Whitaker, and Alastair Wood, three longterm Irish academics, from Lisburn, Portsmouth, and Dundee, respectively.



Sligo is also associated with astronomers of note, from Andrew Graham at Makree in the mid 1800s to Gregg Hallinan at Caltech today.

It is likely that we have omitted many people who should be featured below, simply due to not knowing about their Sligoness.  There are also, more than likely, instances where the designation "born in Sligo" could refer to the town or more generally to the county, but we don't know which is more accurate.  Comments, additions and corrections are, as always, welcome. As are more photographs of the forgotten faces from the past.

Update: in 2002, IT Sligo became a campus of ATU (Atlantic Technological University).

Thanks to Leo Creedon (IT Sligo / ATU) and Olivia Bree (SPD) and many others for valuable input.  Last updated 8 February 2024.


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 1. Robert Phipps (sometimes Phibbs, 1765?-1844) was born in Sligo.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1785, MA 1791, LLB & LLD 1899), and lectured on law and Greek there at various stages.  He was Donegall Lecturer of Mathematics 1800-1807, and served as registrar in the 1830s.

TCD / Donegall / Stillorgan /

 2. Astronomer Edward Cooper (1798-1863) was born in May in Dublin and attended but did not graduate from Oxford. His early years were spent travelling and honing astronomical skills. In 1831 he took over his late father's Markree Castle in Sligo, and started developing what would become Markree Observatory. In his life, which was also dominated by the landlord politics of the era, he was responsible for a great amount of astronomical observations and calculations.

Wikipedia / DNB / IAA

 3. Astronomer Andrew Graham (1815-1908) was born 8 Apr in Irvingstown, Fermanagh.  Details of his education are unknown.  He worked at Makree Observatory (1842-1864) before spending the rest of his career at Cambridge Observatory.

Wikipedia / Geni

 4. Mathematical physicist George Stokes (1819-1903) was born 13 August in Skreen, Sligo. His education and entire professional life was at Cambridge (Pembroke, senior wrangler 1841).  His considerable legacy includes work in physical optics and asymptotic expansions, Stokes' theorem in multivariable calculus, and the Navier-Stokes equations in fluid dynamics.

Wikipedia / MacTutor / Enc Brit / NNDB

 5. James Dowd (1848-1909) was born in Tubbercurry, Sligo, and was educated at TCD (BA 1874).  His career was spent as a clergyman in Tipperary and Limerick.  He was also a notable historian and antiquarian, serving for a while as editor of the Limerick Chronicle. and authoring books on Limerick.


 6. Christopher Hildebrand (1882-1963) was born in Slligo town, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1904, BA 1905). He was professor of maths in Bridlington, Yorkshire, later returning to Sligo.

1901 Census 


 7. Olive McCormick (later Mottram, then Pride, 1889-1989) was born 23 September in Ahamplish, Carney, Sligo.  She was educated at TCD (scholar 1911, BA 1912, teaching cert 1915).  She taught at the Boys HS (Nottingham, 1915-1916), Lindisfarne Prep School (1917),  Sir John Deane's Grammar School (Northwich, Cheshire, 1917-1926).  She had married Sydney Mottram in 1915 in Nottingham, and in 1926 she married Irish solicitor John Pride in London, he died 1929.  In later years she lived in Greystones.

1901 Census / 1911 Census Family / Teaching

08. Thomas Curneen (1894-1955) was born 22 December in Kilmacteigue, Sligo, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1916).  He taught at St Nathy's (-1949-1949-), rising to the rank of president, and ended his career doing parish work in Foxford, Mayo.

1901 Census / Curse

 9. Michael Cunningham (1894-1958) was born in Doonowney, Maherow,, Sligo, and was educated at Maynooth (BA 1918).  His career was spent as a priest, first in Galway, and then back in Roscommon, in Elphin and Knockcroghery.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Obit



10. Winifred Morrin (later Mother Isabel, 1900-1968) was born 22 March in Seevness, west of Ballysadare, Sligo, and was educated at UCG (BA 1920).  She taught maths at St Louis School (1920-1927, 1930-1946) in Kiltimagh, south of Swinford, Mayo, becoming a nun along the way.  She then helped to set up the St Louis Mission in Nigeria, serving as Superior for nine years in Kano and first Principal of St Louis Secondary School there for 7 years.  She then spent 7 years in Kumasi, Ghana.

1901 Census / 1911 Census


11. Rita O'Hara (later O'Connor, 1900-1968) was born 24 February in Tubbercurry, Sligo, and was educated at UCG (BS, 1922).  She taught at Carysfort in Dublin, Marist Convent (Tubbercurry), and Jesus & Mary Convent (Enniscrone).

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Obit


12. William Proctor (1903-1991) was born 8 April in Coolerecuill, between Swinford and Tobborcurry, Sligo, and was educated at TCD (BA 1925).  He was appointed assistant to Archbishop King's Prof at TCD in 1925, but spent most of his life as a clergyman.

1911 Census / Grave

notable_photo 13. Winifred Cahill (aka Una Ni Cathail, 1911- ?) was born 30 October in Tubbercurry, Sligo, and was educated at UCG (BA, 1933).  In 1937 she was an unsuccessful applicant to Sligo Vocational Committee for a job as Rural Science teacher.  Nothing further is known.

14. Physicist Jim O'Reilly (1916-1978) was born 11 November in Galway city, and grew up in Ballymote, Sligo.  He was educated first at Maynooth (BSc 1938), and in due course did his Caltech PhD in 1949, his thesis on "A Study of the Physical and Chemical Composition of Homogenous and Inhomogenous Models of the Sun" being done under Robert Christy.  He lectured on maths and theology at Mount St Mary's College in Los Angeles (1949-1968), and then on theology at St John's (Camarillo, 1968-1978).



15. Theoretical physicist Jim Hamilton  (1918-2000) was born 29 January in Sligo town, and brought up in Belfast.  He was educated at QUB (BSc 1938, MSc 1939).  His master's thesis "A Theoretical Study of Gaseous Helium" was done under Harrie Massey.  After a few years at QUB and DIAS, and war service at the British Admiralty, his Manchester PhD (1948) on "Quantum Theory of Radiation Damping" was done under Patrick Blackett.  His career was spent at Cambridge (1950-1960), University College London, (1960-1964) and Nordita in Copenhagen (1964-1985).  At DIAS, he helped develop the theory of cosmic-ray mesons, and his later work included S-matrix theory research.  He supervised several doctoral students and authored 3 books.

Wikipedia / CERN / Bio

16. H. F. (Harry) Sandham (1917-1963) was born 1 May in Dublin and grew up there and in Sligo.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1939, MA 1941?), where he was a maths scholar.  He lectured first at QUB, then for over a decade at TCD.  He also spent some time at DIAS, before moving to Nelson Research Laboratories (English Electric Labs) in Staffordshire.  He was an active contributor to journals throughout his relatively short life, his name even appearing alongside those of Erdős and Polya, and he obtained his TCD PhD on "Products of the Hypergeometric Functions, with published papers" in 1957, around the time he left academia.

17. Brendan Caulfield (aka Breandán Mac Conamhna) was born in Belderrig, Mayo, and was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1956, MSc 1957).  Dip in stats.  LLD. His career was spent lecturing at Lanchester Polytech in Coventry (1970s) and as the head of RTC Sligo (1979-2001).  His mathematical sons Colm-cille Caulfield and Oisín Mac Conamhna are below.

Indo1 / Indo2 / Book

18. James Flanagan (1940-2012) was born in Ardconnell, Ballymote, Sligo, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1961) and UCD (HDip).  He taught at St Nathy's College in Balloymote.


19. Frederick Kane was born in Sligo town and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1961). Career in Derry?

20. Jim Gahan was born in Dublin and was educated at TCD (BA 1969).  After a stint at DIAS he lectured for many years at RTC/IT Sligo.

21. Mathematics education expert John O'Donoghue was born in Nenagh, Tipperary, and educated at St John Fisher College in Rochester (BSc 1969), at Rensselaer Polytechnic (MSc 1971) and at Loughborough (PhD 1978). His thesis on "Educating and Training Mathematics Teachers for Secondary Schools in Ireland: a New Perspective on Teacher Education" was done with Avi Bajpai. He had lectured at RTC Sligo (1972-1974); the rest of his career was spent at Thomond College and then at UL, where he supervised over 30 theses at master's and PhD level, and co-authored two books.  He was founding co-director of the National Centre for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and Learning (NCE-MSTL).

UL / Interview


22. John Sheehy was born in Limerick.  He lectured for many years at RTC/IT Sligo.

23. David Flannery was born in Sligo, and grew up in Galway and Dublin.  He was educated at first at UCC (BSc 1972, MSc 1973, HDip).  He lectured at CIT (1975-2012), worked in group theory, and later earned his PhD from TCD (2006) on "Enhancing the Teaching and Learning of Mathematics in the Senior Cycle" under John Evans.  He published the books In Code: A Mathematical Journey (2000, co-authored with his daughter Sarah), and The Square Root of 2: A Dialogue Concerning a Number and a Sequence (2006).



24. Grace Corcoran was born in Clonmel, Tipperary, and was educated at UCD (BSc 1974, HDip 1975).  She taught secondary school for a while, and lectured at RTC/IT Sligo (1979-2014).  Along the way she got a BSc in Information Technology from DCU (1991) and MA in Interactive Multimedia from IT Tallaght (2003).

25. Fran O'Regan (brother of NUIG's Donal) was born in Cork and educated at UCC.  He has long lectured at IT Sligo.

ATU / LinkiedIn / Award

26. Nessan Fitzmaurice was born in Kilmactranny, Sligo, north of Boyle, Roscommon, and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1979, MSc 1980).  His 1986 PhD on "Numerical Calculations of the Stability of Some Axisymmetric Flows Proposed as a Model for Vortex Breakdown" was done at Cornell with Philip Holmes.  After a few years at NASA, his career has been spent in finance.



27. Engineer John Donovan was born in Mullinavat, Kilkenny, and was educated at NIHE/UL (BE 1982, PhD in reliability engineering 1998).  He worked in industry for a decade, and has lectured at IT Sligo since 1993.

IT Sligo / ResearchGate

28. Eamonn O'Brien was born in Ballymote, Sligo, and was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1983).  His 1988 PhD on "The Groups of Order Dividing 256" was done at Australian National University with Michael Newman.  After a couple of years at Marquette University, and 5 years back at Australian, and 2 years at Aachen, he settled at Auckland University, in NZ, where he has had 5 PhD students.

Auckland / Link

29. Computer scientist Neil Hurley was born in Sligo, and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1987, MSc 1988).  His 1995+ PhD on "Knowledge-based Computational Modelling and Case-bound Mesh Design for Partial Differential Equation Problems" was done at TCD under ??.  He worked for Hitachi before joining the CS staff at UCD in 1999.


30. David Doyle was born in Wexford, and has lectured at IT Sligo.

LinkedIn / Award

31. Engineer Marion McAfee was born in Belfast, Antrim, and grew up in Belcoo, Fermanagh.  She was educated at QUB (MEng 2002, PhD 2005).  Her thesis on "A Soft Sensor for Viscosity Control of Polymer Extrusion" was done with Steve Thompson.  She lectured at QUB (2006-2009), and then moved to IT Sligo.  Her interests are in sensing, modelling and control of system dynamics.

IT Sligo / ResearchGate / GoogleScholar

32. Colm-cille Caulfield was born in Coventry, England, son of Brendan Caulfield (aka Breandán Mac Conamhna) above, and grew up there are in Sligo town.  He was educated at UU Coleraine (BSc 1987) and at Cambridge (PhD 1991).  His thesis on "Stratification and Buoyancy in Geophysical Flow" was done under Paul Linden.  After several years each at Toronto, Bristol, and San Diego, he returned to Cambridge in 2005.  He specialises in fluid mechanics and turbulence, and has supervised 15 PhD students.  His brother is below.

Cambridge / GoogleScholar / ResearchGate / LinkedIn

33. 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 2001).  His thesis on "Symbol Algebras, Involutions and Trace Forms" was done under Thomas Unger & Dave Lewis.  He worked in software 1989-2007 and at UCD 2004-2012 before moving to Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.  He authored the 2022 book MIghTY Maths: Mathematical Investigations for Transition Year.


34. Seán McGarraghy was born in Drumcliff, Sligo, and was educated at UCD (BE 1989, MSc 1992, PhD 2001).  His thesis on "Annihilating Polynomials in the Witt Ring and Exterior Powers for Quadratic Forms" was done under Dave Lewis.  His career has been in business analytics, which he now heads up at UCD.  His interests include network and natural computing algorithms.


35. Leo Creedon was born 13 May in Ballinveltig, west of Cork city, and was first educated at UCC (BSc 1991, MSc 1992).  His 2000 PhD on "The Units of Modular Group Algebras" was done under Maziar Shirvani at Edmonton.  Since 2004, he has been on the staff at IT Sligo, where he has supervised 4 doctoral students.

IT Sligo / Imbolc /

36. Damien Raftery was born in Dundalk, Louth, and raised there and in Sligo town. He was educated at UCD (BSc 1994, MSc 1995) and has been teaching at IT Carlow since then.


37. Niall Friel was born in Ballymote, Sligo, and was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1995, MSc 1996), where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize. His 1999 PhD on "Application of Random Sets to Image Analysis" was done at Glasgow under Ilya Molchanov.  After a stint at Glasgow (2002-2007), he moved to UCD where he now prof of stats.  He has supervised 10 PhD students.

UCD / GoogleScholar

38. Francis Dolan (born Sligo, grew up Kilcadden, near Killygordon, Donegal, 1977-2011) was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1997, MSc 1998), earning an NUI Travelling Studentship there.  His 2003 PhD on "Aspects of Superconformal Quantum Field Theory" was done at Cambridge under Hugh Osborn.  He did numerous postdocs (at Cambridge / DIAS / Southampton / Amsterdam / Crete) before his untimely death.  His interests included superconformal characters and partition functions.

Conf / Memorial / Dedication

39. Kieran Hughes was born in Dungannon, Tyrone, and grew up in Carraroe, Sligo.  He was educated at first at DCU (BSc 1997), and then worked in the financial world and as a teacher.  He continued his education at the Open University (MSc 2016), and started lecturing at IT Sligo. His 2020 PhD on "Derivations of Group Algebras with Applications" was done under Leo Creedon.

IT Sligo / ResearchGate

40. Fergal Gallagher was born in Sligo town, and was educated at first at QUB (BSc 1998).  After working as a trading analyst, he started lecturing at IT Sligo in 2011.  There he did an MEng *2014), with a thesis on "An Atlas of Finite Group Algebras with Applications for Coding Theory" under Leo Creedon.


41. Cillian O'Murchu was born in Galway city and was educated at NUIG (BSc 1998, MSc in financial and industrial maths, 1999).  After working in industry, and teaching secondary school in Galway & Sligo (2008-2010), he joined the staff at IT Sligo.


42. Maths education expert Siún Nic Mhuirí was born 11 September in Strandhill, Sligo, and was educated at first at NUIG (BA 1999, MA 2000).  She taught at the primary level in Sligo, Colombia and Dublin for a while, and earned a PGCE (2004) at the University of Exeter.  Her 2012 PhD on "Does it go without saying? Mathematical thinking in whole class discours" was done under Delores Corcoran at St Pat's Drumcondra, where she now lectures.  Her research supports the new primary curriculum, and she plays leadership rolls in both the Mathe4All and TWG19 in CERME projects.

SPD / GoogleScholarMaths4All / TWG19

43. Oisin Mac Conamhna was born in Sligo, and was educated at NUIG (BSc 2000) and at Cambridge (Tripos Part III 2001, PhD 2005).  His thesis on "G-Structures in Supergravity" was done with Stephen Hawking.  After a few years at Imperial College, he switched to quantitative finance and now works for Lloyds.  His father and brother are above.

Web / LinkedIn / IT

44. Joe Gildea was born in Dublin and was educated at UCD (BA 2001, Dip Applies Sci 2002, MSc 2003) and then at NUIG (PhD 2008).  His thesis on "Units of Group Algebras" was done under Ted Hurley.  He lectured at IT Sligo (2007-2013) before moving to the University of Chester (2013-2022).  Since 2022 he has been at DKIT.

DKIT / Chester / ResearchGate / GoogleScholar

46. Etain Kiely was educated entirely at UL (BSc in physics and biology 2001, MSc in nanotechnology education 2003, PhD in mentoring 2005).  She lectured at IT Sligo 2005-2015 before moving to GMIT.


47. Gregg Hallinan was born in Castleconnor, near Enniscrone, Sligo.  He was educated at NUIG (BSc 2002, PhD 2008+), his thesis on "The Periodic And Pulsing Radio Emission From Very Low Mass Stars And Brown Dwarfs" being done with Aaron Golden.  Since 2012 he has been at Caltech. 


48. David Conlon was born in August in Sligo, and grew up in Lanesborough, Longford.  He was educated at TCD (BA 2003) and Cambridge (Tripos Part III 2004, PhD 2009).  His thesis on "Upper Bounds for Ramsey Numbers" was done with Tim Gowers.  He was at Oxford for a decade, giving an invited talk on "Combinatorial Theorems Relative to a Random Set" at the 2014 ICM in Seoul, before moving to Caltech in 2019.

Caltech / GoogleScholar

49. Sean Murray was born just outside Sligo town.  He was educated first at NUIG (BSc 2003, MSc 2004) and then at Maynooth & DIAS (PhD 2008).  This thesis on "Fuzzy Spaces and Vector Bundles" was done with Brian Dolan & Denjoe O'Connor.  He has done postdocs at Louvain (2008-2010) and Norwich (2010-2014), and is now researching theoretical biology at MPI Marburg.


50. Donny Hurley was born in Galway city and was educated at NUIG (BSc 2004, PhD 2010).  His thesis on "Virasoro Correlation Functions for Vertex Operator Algebras" was done with Michael Tuite.  He was in the CS dept at Maynooth (2014-2016) and lectured at IT Sligo (2017-2022).  He is now at GMIT in Galway (ATU Galway-Mayo).

IT Sligo / ResearchGate

51. Ian McLoughlin was born in Galway city, and was educated entirely at NUIG (BSc 2004, PhD 2009).  His thesis on "Dihedral Codes" was done under Ted Hurley.  He first worked in industry, and then lectured at IT Sligo before moving to GMIT in 2014.

GMIT / LinkedIn / GoogleScholar / Award 1 / Award 2

52. Nina Snigireva was born in December in Moscow, and grew up in Galway city.  She was educated at NUIG (BSc 2004?) and the University of St Andrews (PhD 2008).  Her thesis on "Inhomogeneous Self-similar Sets and Measures" was done with Lars Olsen.  After some overseas postdocs, she has lectured at NUIG and UCD, and in 2022 joined the staff at IT Sligo.  She works in fractal geometry and functional analysis.


53. Gerard Boland was born in Kinard, Enniscrone, Sligo.  He was educated at TCD (BA 2005) and UCD (PhD 2009).  His thesis on "Infinite Cycles in Boson Lattice Models" was done under Joe Pulé.  Most of his career has been spent as a software engineer.


53. Epidemiologist Kate Timoney was born in Sligo and was educated at UCD (BA 2009, HDip 2010) and UL (MSc 2011, PhD 2016+).  Her thesis on "Numerical Analysis of Nonlinear Singularly Perturbed Reaction-Diffusion Equations" was done under Natalia Kopteva.  After working in industry for a bit, and a year back at UL, she joined the Health Protection Surveillance Centre.


54. Shane Burns was born in Sligo, and was educated at NUIG (BSc physics 2011, PhD 2015).  His thesis on "Theoretical and Numerical Analysis of Rigid-Body Impacts with Friction" was done under Petri Piiroinen. After a postdoc in Edinburgh, he moved into data analytics, first in Kerry and Cork, and now in Edinburgh.


55. Engineer Konrad Mulrennan was born in Letterkenny, Donegal, and 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 supervised by Marion McAfee, Leo Creedon & John Donovan.  He now lectures at IT Sligo.

56. Cian O'Brien was born in Sligo and grew up there and in Mayo. He was educated at NUIG (BSc 2016, PhD 2020), his thesis on "Edge Colourings and Latin-like Squares: Combinatorial Structures Arising from Alternating Sign Matrices" being done under Rachel Quinlan & Kevin Jennings. After a year at Cardiff, he is now at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick.

MIC / ResearchGate / LinkedIn