The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Cavan (Feb 2020)

Having finished 2019 by surveying over 80 people associated with Cork, we now move north to Cavan for our 17th bi-monthly regional Irish focused blog.  Earlier blogs highlighted mathematical people associated with Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan, Tipperary, Sligo, Carlow, and Down

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).

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 for valuable input. Last updated 9 Feb 2024.


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 1. Pierce Morton (1803-1859) was born 27 November in Kilnacrott, Drumrora, Cavan, and grew up there and in Devon.  He was educated at Cambridge (Trinity, 6th wrangler 1825, MA 1829), and was appointed as professor of maths at King's College in Nova Scotia, a position he left within six months.  A few years later, in England, he published new proof of the focus-directrix property of conic sections, and a book on geometry.  He was a magistrate in Ireland, and for a while in the 1840s lived in France.  He spent his last decade working at the Cape Observatory in South Africa.

Cambridge / Nova Scotia / Paper / Numericana / Cape / Cape 2NLI / 1847


 2. Doctor Edward McGuire (or Maguire, 1825??-1907) was described as a native of Cavan in an obituary.  Other sources associate his early days with Fermanagh and Monaghan.  He was one of the first two maths graduates of Queen's, Galway (BA 1854, MA 1882?), having earlier attended a seminary for a while. He then pursued medicine (Edinburgh 1859) and spent his career as a doctor in Mayo.  His angle trisection attempt from 1851 survives.

Angle trisection / Obit / 1901 Census

 3. John Fowler (1826-1898) was born 9 October, reportedly in Cara House, Fermanagh.  His early life has also been associated with several locations: TCD records say he was born in Cavan, the family had bases in Rathmoylon House, in Rahinstown, Meath, and in Dublin.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1847+) and his career was spent as a barrister.

Peerage / Grave

 4. Richard Martin (1833-1872, brother of Henry below) was born 10 November in Killeshandra, Cavan, and was educated at TCD (BA 1855+). His short career was spent in India, as inspector of colleges.

Grave / Family

 5. Henry Martin (1836-1906, brother of Richard above) was born 9 August in Killeshandra, Cavan, and was educated at TCD (BA 1857, MA 186x).  His career was spent as a clergyman in Cavan,

1901 Census / Parish / Family


 6. Edward Connolly (1835?-1890) was baptised 5 May. Nothing is known of his education.  He was a teacher of note, in Garrysallagh, Mountnugent (Cavan) and later in Stackallen, Slane (Meath). He contributed to the Educational Times.

Edu Times / Appeal / Stackallen

 7. James O'Kinealy (1839-1903) was born in Calcutta, India, and grew up in Cavan town, where his father James was engineer.  He was educated at Queen's Galway (BA 1858, MA & hon LLD 1882), and spent his career as a judge in India. He published maths in the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine in the 1870s.

Papers / India

 8. Peter O'Kinealy (1848-1914, brother of above) was born in Cavan.  He was educated at Queen's Galway (BA 1874, LLB & MA 1875, LLD 1882), and spent his career in law in India.

Obit / India

 9. Francis Rountree (1859?-1944) was born somewhere in Cavan and was educated at TCD (BA 1884, MA 1889). He taught at the Grammar School in Cork and in Rockcorry, Monaghan.

1911 Census / Links

10. John Barniville (1872-1930) was born 23 April in Cavan town, the family moving a lot due to his father being in the RIC. He was educated at TCD (BA in history? 1893, MA 1896?). He worked in the civil service in India, and later in Dublin. He contributed to the Educational Times.

1911 Census / Edu Times / Brother


11. Joseph Smyth (1872-1944) was born 13 Aug? in Bailieborough, Cavan, and started his career teaching at Drutamon School (Cootehill). After training in Marlborough St in Dublin, he became the principal at Stevenson's School (Dunmurry, Belfast) in 1896.  He then earned degrees in maths: an RUI BA (1902, via study at Kelvin Hall), and a Univ of London BSc (1906).  After 2 years teaching at the Belfast Institute of Technology, he became the principal of Nicholson Memorial School in Lisburn (1910-1935).  He was very active in educational affairs, playing a role in what became the (Northern Irish) Educational Act of 1923.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / 1910 / Obit


12. J. Riversdale Colthurst (1874-1958) was born 30 March in Danesford, Cavan, and grew up there and in Dublin. He was educated at Cambridge (Christ's, 15th wrangler 1896, MA 1901).  He taught briefly at Malvern College (Worcestershire), but most of his career was spent as a clergyman, first in England, and from 1923 on in Wicklow (Kilbride near Arklow, and Calary). He published on special relativity and other topics, and was active in DIAS affairs in the 1940s.

1901 census / 1911 census / Wikitree / Peerage / Cambridge / Paper 1 / Paper 2 / Paper 3


13. Cecilia Ryan (1880-1962) was born 19 October in Bailieborough, Cavan. She was educated at the RUI (BA 1903 via study at St Mary's) and UCD (BSc 1913). She taught in Antrim and in Dublin.

MacTutor / 1901 Census / 1911 Census / Grave

14. Richard Ronaldson (1904-1971) was born 25 June in Old Bridge, Cootehill, Cavan. He was educated at TCD (BA 1926), and for over 35 years worked as a tax inspector in England, later serving in the same role in Belfast.

1911 Census / Family / Grave


  15. James Sheridan (1912-1978?, aka Brother George) was born 27 March in Corrivilla, Cavan. He may have got an NUI degree. He was an influential and innovative De La Salle maths teacher, in Cork, Mayo (teaching Des MacHale), Mauritius and Ballyfermot.

16. Victor Graham (1914-1991) was born 11 February in Cavan town. He was educated at TCD (BA 1936, MA 1939), where he was also a scholar.  He taught at the High School in Dublin until 1947, when he commenced 4 decade on the staff at TCD. In 1989, TCD awarded him ScD.


17. David Huddie (1916-1998) was born 12 March in Shercock, Cavan, north of Bailieborough.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1938), and rose to high rank during 3 decades at Rolls Royce. He finished his career with a decade at Imperial College. 

Obit 1 / Obit 2

18. Philip McShane (1932-2020) was born 18 February in Bailieborough, Cavan, and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1955, MSc 1956). He was ordained in 1963, and his DPhil in philosophy was done at Oxford (1968). He then taught for 5 years at the Milltown Institute of Philosophy and Theology, followed by 3 decades at Mount St Vincent's University in Halifax, Canada.  His work focussed on the interface between the natural sciences and the human sciences.

Wikipedia / Link

19. Mike McElroy was born 18 May in Shercock, Cavan. He was educated at QUB (BSc 1960, PhD 1962, DSc 1991). His thesis on "Some Quantal Calculations on Collisions Involving Charged Particles" was done with Alex Dalgarno. His career has been spent as at atmospheric scientist, first at Kitt Peak National Observatory, and then at Harvard. He has authored numerous books.


20. Brendan Browne was born somewhere in Cavan, and was educated at first at UCD (BE year?, BSc 1965, MSc 1966).  His 1971 PhD on "Numerical Solution of Eddy Current Fields" was done with Peter Lawrenson at Leeds. Most of his career was spent at Kevin St.

21. John Cosgrave was born 5 January in Bailieborough, Cavan, and was educated at Royal Holloway College, at the University of London.  The bulk of his teaching career
was spent at Carysfort College and St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra.  Since taking early retirement he's been an active researcher in number theory.


22. Gerry Gallagher was born in Ballyhaise, Cavan, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1979, MSc 1980).  After teaching in Raheny, he joined the staff at Dundalk IT in 1994, where he currently heads up e-learning.

23. Shane Mulligan (?-2016) was born in Carolina, Lisnalong, Cootehill, Cavan. He was educated at TCD (BA year?, PhD 1991), his thesis on "Preconditioned Iterative Methods for the Numerical Solution of the Stationary Semiconductor Device Equations" being done under John Miller. He career was spent in computer science at Bolton St and Kevin St.



24. Olivia Fitzmaurice (née Gill) was born in Kilnaleck, Cavan, and was educated at first at the University of Limerick (BA 1996), following which she taught at the secondary level.  After attending Maynooth (MSc 2001), she returned to Limerick, where her PhD 2006 thesis on "What Counts as Service Mathematics?: an Investigation into the 'Mathematics Problem' in Ireland" was done under John O'Donoghue.  She has been on the staff at Limerick ever since, and has supervised one PhD student . Her research areas include adult learners of mathematics, service mathematics, the Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network (IMLSN) and mathematics in initial teacher education.