The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Meath (Aug 2020)

Our 20th bi-monthly regional Irish focused blog highlights mathematical people associated with Meath, following on Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan, Tipperary, Sligo, Carlow, Down, Cork, Cavan, Laois (formerly Queen's County).

Of course the best known Irish mathematical person associated with this eastern county is Dublin-born Hamilton. Astonishingly, the scant remaining fragments of Ireland's 1821 census include him, aged 15, while he was living with his uncle in Trim.


Here is the TCD record of his enrolling there on 7 July 1823, just four weeks before his 18th birthday. His line is the eighth one, listed as "Gulielmus Hamilton", the first line being Bartholomew Lloyd (whose middle name was Clifford), son of mathematician Bartholomew Lloyd and brother of Humphrey who are both highlighted in another blog. The images here are at TCD online here and here.




Closer inspection of Hamilton's line reveals later annotations in red: factus est Soc: Com: Jussii Propositi & Soc: Sen: Junii die 16 A:D: 1827 et codem die ab iis electus est Astronomiae Professor, referring to his being formally appointed professor on Saturday, 16 June 1827.






The second edition of Dublin Evening Post that very day heralded his appointment:


He still had final exams to sit on 19 & 20 June. Graduation was on Tuesday, 10 July, when 69 BAs were conferred. Back in June, while still technically an undergraduate, Hamilton had already had to exercise one professorial duty: "examining graduates in the higher branches of mathematics for Bishop Law's mathematical premium."

There are two errors in the TCD entrance record above which would perpetuate in future documents: the listing of Meath (East) as Hamilton's birthplace and the implication that his solicitor father Archibald (1778-1819) was still alive (it was customary to use defunctus when it was known that a father was deceased).

Those errors are for instance listed in the standard work of reference for TCD graduates up to 1860: Alumni Dublinensis: A Register of the Students, Graduates, Professors and Provosts of Trinity College in the University of Dublin, 1593–1860 edited by G.D. Burtchaell & T.U. Sadleir (Dublin, 1935), where on page 366 we see:



No adjustments are suggested in the Addenda and Corrigenda section at the end of that volume.


After Hamilton, it seems, there is a very big gap before the next Meath maths person. There are very few people overall, especially for a large county just north of the capital. One reason is probably that there are Irish maths people who are from Meath but not yet identified by us as being from there.

Comments, additions and corrections are, as always, welcome. As are more photographs.

Thanks to Olivia Bree (SPD) and Anne van Weerden (Utrecht) for valuable input. Last updated 3 Feb 2023.


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1. William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) was born 3/4 August in Dublin, and grew up there and (from the age of 3) in Trim, Meath. He was educated at TCD (BA 1827, MA 1837, LLD 1839). He was appointed the third Andrews Professor of Astronomy (and hence effectively Royal Astronomer of Ireland and Director of Dunsink) a few weeks before his BA graduation, and held those positions until his death. He is Ireland’s most renowned mathematician and mathematical physicist. His extensive legacy includes innovations in algebra, mechanics and optics. He is perhaps most well known for quaternions, a non-commutative algebraic system predating matrices. Cambridge awarded him LLD in 1845 and DCL in 1861. He was the first Foreign Associate of United States National Academy of Sciences.

1821 Census / Wikipedia / MacTutor / TCD / DIB / Papers / Enc Brit / Enc / Hamilton Walk


2. Eugene Freehill (1868-1954) was born 22 Sep in Trim, Meath, and was educated at UCD (BA 1890).  He was an examiner for the Board of Education in London.


3. Thomas Grennan (1910-1981) was born 4 May in Navan, Meath, and was educated at Maynooth (BA 1930).  His career was spent as a schools inspector in the Dept of Education.

1911 / Son

4. Astronomer and and astrophysicist Mary Conway (aka Máire Ní Chonmhidhe, later Brück, 1925-2008) was born 29 May in Ballivor, Meath, and was educated at first in physics at UCD (BSc 1945, MSc 1946), earning an NUI Travelling Studentship.  She went to Edinburgh (PhD 1950), her thesis on "Studies of Hα Line Profiles in Prominences" being done under Irishman Mervyn Ellison).  She had actually been at Dunsink since 1947, and in 1957 moved to a position at the Royal Obs Edinburgh with husband Hermann Brück (see above) when he was appointed as director of the Royal Obs there.  She also held a position at Univ Edinburgh (1972-1987).  Her extensive publications include the books The Night Sky (1965), Agnes Mary Clerke and the Rise of Astrophysics (2002) and Women in Early British and Irish Astronomy: Stars and Satellites (2009).

Wikipedia / Irish Times / Scotsman / ADS

5. Statistician John F. Connolly was born 20 February in east Galway, and grew up mostly in Kells, Meath. He was educated at UCC (BSc 1965, HDip 1966), Reading (MSc 1968) and TCD (PhD 1979). His thesis on "The Design and Analysis of Mixed Grazing Experiments" was done under Gordon Foster. After a spell at Teagasc he joined UCD, where he served for 25 years, including a stint as head of statistics  His research interests are in agricultural and ecological and biological statistics, and he supervised several PhD students.

UCD / ResearchGate

  6. Colm Nicholas Kelly was born in Navan, Meath, and was educated at UCG (BSc 1971, MSc 1972). He lectured at IT Carlow 1972-2010?.

7. Tom Brady was born in Kilbride, Meath, and was educated at TCD (BA 1982) and Cornell (PhD 1988). His thesis on "The Integral Cohomology of Out_+(F_3)" was done under Marshall Cohen and Karen Vogtmann. After spells at Univ Michigan and Brigham Young, he settled at DCU, where he has supervised 2 PhD students. His interests are in geometric group theory and combinatorics.


8. Fergus Gaughran was born in Navan, Meath, and was educated at UCD (BSc 1985, MSc 1986, PhD 1990). His thesis on "The Pluricomplex Green Function with an Infinite Number of Poles" was done under Sean Dineen. After spells teaching at Lock Haven Univ and IT Tallaght he switched careers. He has worked at AIB and is now head of risk analysis at the Ulster Bank.



9. Noel Brady (brother of Tom above) was born in Kilbride, Meath, and was educated at TCD (Scholar, BA 1988) and Berkeley (PhD 1993). His thesis on "The Geometry of Asynchronous Automatic Structures on Groups" was done under John Stallings. After postdocs at Utah and Cornell, he settled at the Univ Oklahoma, where he recently served as dept head. He has supervised 4 PhD students, and co-authored the book The Geometry of the Word Problem for Finitely Generated Groups (2007). His interests are in
geometric group theory and low dimensional topology.


10. Shane (Nirbasa) McGee was born in Summerhill, Meath, and was educated at TCD (BA Physics 2000?, PhD 2005). His thesis on "Simulated Annealing of Skyrme Model Configurations" was done under Conor Houghton. He worked in healthcare in Iceland before focussing on ultra running.


11. Stephen Scully was born 20 Feb in Navan, Meath, and was educated at UCD (BAFS 2007), Cambridge (Tripos Part III 2009) and Nottingham (PhD 2013). His thesis on "Quasilinear Forms, Milnor K-theory, and Function Fields of Hypersurfaces in Positive Characteristic" was done under Detlef Hoffman & Alexander Vishik. After postdocs at MPI (Bonn) and Univ Alberta in Edmonton, he is now at the University of Victoria. His interests include quadratic and higher degree forms, and projective homogeneous varieties.


12. Brendan Murray was born in Kells, Meath. He was educated at Maynooth (BSc maths & th phy 2012), TCD (MSc 2013), and UCD (PhD 2017+). His master's included a thesis in High Performance Computing done under Dermot Frost. His doctoral thesis on "Fourier Phase Dynamics in Turbulent Non-Linear Systems" was done under Miguel Bustamante. He works for Arista Networks.

ResearchGate / LinkedIn

13. Johnner Barrett was born in Bethesda, MD, USA, and grew up in Navan, Meath.  He was educated at Penn State Univ (BSc) and at Oregon State Univ (PhD 2013+), his thesis on "The Local Conservation Laws of the Nonlinear Schrödinger Equation" being done under Tevian Dray.  He has lectured at nearby Chemeketa Community College, and since 2019 is back at OSU.