The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: CLARE (Feb 2021)

Our 23rd bi-monthly regional Irish focused blog highlights mathematical people associated with Clare, following on Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan, Tipperary, Sligo, Carlow, Down, Cork, Cavan, Laois, Londonderry, Meath, Leitrim, and Dublin.

The proximity of Clare to Galway has resulted in good access to third level education for students from the county since Queen's College Galway (later UCG and now NUIG) was founded in the mid 1800s. There are more options now of course, including the University of Limerick (formerly NIHE Limerick), which has really blossomed since the 1980s. Over the decades, many Clare students chose Cork too. Curiously, three early maths trained men associated with Clare had careers in the RIC.

As usual, there are probably Irish maths (or maths ed or stats or actuarial or theoretical physics) people missing from this blog because while we know about them we don't yet know they are from Clare.

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

Thanks to Olivia Bree (SPD) and Eugene Gath (UL) for valuable input. Last updated 20 Sep 2023.


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01. Matthew O'Brien (1814-1855) was born in Ennis, Clare, and was educated at TCD (BA 1834) and Cambridge (Gonville & Caius, 3rd wrangler 1838, MA 1841).  He taught at King's College, London, and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.  He is credited with anticipating by several decades many of the results of classic vector analysis, and he applied them to the mechanics of the earth's motion. Among the books he published were several maths textbooks.

Wikipedia / MacTutor / IMS / DBN / Bio / Hist


02. W. Bindon Blood (1817-1894) was born on 20 January in Cranagher, just east of Ennis, Clare, and grew up there and later in Edinburgh.  He was one of the first people to receive a maths degree from TCD (BA 1838+, gold medal).  He was professor of engineering at Queen’s College, Galway (1850-1860), where he also pioneered cycling in Ireland.  Before and after that he worked and an engineer, in Scotland, England and Ireland, his design principles being used in the Drogheda railway bridge. In 1876, he patented the Dublin Tricycle.

Wikipedia / Peerage / Bicycle / Tricycle

03. Henry Scott Smith (1829?-1864) was born in Clare, into a family associated with Strabane. He was educated at TCD (BA 1853+, MB 1858). His short career was spent in the civil service in India, following which he was fellow and registrar of the Univ of Calcutta. Two of his brothers also worked in India and died young.


04. Henry Thynne (1838-1915) was born in December at Ballinagrave House, Kilshany, near Ennistymon, Clare, and was educated at Queen's Galway (BA 1859, LLB 1873, MA & LLD 1882). His career was entirely in the RIC, rising to the rank of deputy inspector general.

Kilkenny / Bio / Grave 

05. James O'Donohoe (1851? to at least 1907) was born in Glendree, Tulla, Clare.  He may have been educated at Carlow College or at Maynooth. He taught maths (and English) at Knockbeg College (just north of Carlow town) for about 40 years.

1901 Census


06. Doctor Robert Shore (1856-1944) was born 10 November in Sixmilbridge, Clare, and was educated at Queen's College Galway (BA 1875, MA 1877, MD 1880). His career was spent as a doctor in the British Army in India.

Baptism / Indian Medical Gazette / India


07. Robert Sullivan (1859?-1937) was born in Limerick, and grew up in Knock, Ennis, Clare. He was educated at Queen's Cork (BA 1878, MA 1879, LLB). His entire career was spent in the RIC, retiring in 1920.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / RIC Obit


08. Matthew Fry (1863-1943) was born in Kilkeedy, southwest of Gort, Clare, and grew up there and near Corbally, Roscrea, Tipperary. He was educated at TCD (BA 1885, MA & Fellow 1889). He was appointed Assistant to the Professor of Natural Philosophy, Frederick Purser, around 1889. Upon the latter's death, Fry became University Professor of Natural  Philosophy (1910-1925). He also served as junior dean

Wikipedia / Obit 1 / Obit 2 /1901 Census / 1911 Census


09. Hume Jones (1866-1949) was born 21 Jun in Newmarket, Ennis, Clare, and was educated at TCD (BA 1888, DJ, RJC, BL, LLB). His career was spent in the RIC.

Grave / Peerage


10. Margaret Lillis (later Dunne, 1887-1960) was born 1 Sep, in Querrin, Kilrush, Clare. She obtained an NUI BA (1910) following study at Eccles St in Dublin, and then a HDip (1913). She taught at Eccles St until marrying John Dunne in 1919.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / Death


11. Duncan MacLachlan (1888?-1978?) was born 9 Nov at Knockerra near Killimer, Clare.  He was a senior scholar of maths at UCG in 1911 (BA too??). Nothing else is known.

1901 Census / 1911 Census

12. 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 (Scholar, BA 1921). 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


13. Matthew L. Niall (1906-??) was born 26 May, Killaloe, Clare. He was educated at UCD (BComm 1927, MSc). He was teaching maths in Bolton St in the late 60s and early 70s.

1911 Census / Bolton St


13B. John O'Leary (aka Seán Ó Laoghaire), 1912-??) was born on 20 May in Lickeen, south of Kilfenonra, Clare, and was educated at UCG (BA 1934, MA 1936).  He taught till 1940, and spent the rest of his career in Dublin as a secondary school inspector, rising to the rank of chief inspector.


14. Paddy Kennedy (1929-1966) was born 20 Jul in Clarecastle, just south of Ennis, Clare, and was educated at first at UCC (BSc 1949, MSc 1951), winning an NUI Travelling Studentship.  He taught at Aberysthwyth (1953-1954) while completing his PhD on "On the Growth of Certain Integral and Subharmonic Functions" done under Walter Hayman at Exeter, the degree being awarded in 1955 by NUI. He then taught at UCC until becoming the first prof of maths at the new York University in 1963. Sadly, he died young. NUI also awarded him DSc in 1959.

MacTutor / Link1 / Link2

notable_photo 15. Vincent Griffin was born in (Kilfenora?) Clare. He was educated at UCG (BSc 1965, HDip). He spent his career as a teacher.
notable_photo 16. Mick Downes was born in Clare, and was at first educated at UCD (BSc 1969?). He later got a masters from TCD (1988) for a thesis on quantum mechanics under John Lewis. He taught at Kevin St for about 30 years.  
  17. Thomas Senan McMahon was born near Ennistymon in Clare. He was educated at UCG (BSc 1970, MSc 1971). Nothing further is known.

18. Michael Clancy was born 16 Mar in Kilmihil, between Kilrush and Ennin, Clare. He was educated first at UCG (BSc 1974, MSc 1975), and his 1980 PhD on "The Minimal Model and Real Homotopy of Symmetric Spaces" was done at Notre Dame under Tadashi Nagano. He spent his career at DCU, retiring in 2019. His research interests include topological groups and Lie algebras.


  19. Mary Martini Garvey was born in Labasheeda, Clare, and was educated at UCG (BSc 1977, HDip).  Her career has been spent in teaching.
notable_photo 20. James Malone was born in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, England, and grew up there and in Doonbeg, Clare. He was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1979, MSc 1980). His 1986 PhD on "Elastic-Plastic Finite Element Analysis of Fracture in a Thin Rectangular Plate" being done at the Univ of Minnesota under Philip Hodge & Robert Plunkett.  After several years at General Motors the rest of his career was spent at Intel.
notable_photo 21. Clare Lundon (née Cunningham) was born in Molougha, Killimer, Clare. She was educated at Mary Immaculate College (BA 1980), and then at UCC (MSc 1982), being awarded an NUI Travelling Studentsship Prize. After teaching for several years at the primary level she earned another MSc (in applied maths and computing) at Limerick (1992). She taught at IT Tralee, and since 1996 has been at GMIT.

22. Theoretical physicist Diarmuid Ó Sé was born 2 July in Limerick city and grew up nearby in Ardnacrusha, Clare. He was educated at Maynooth, finishing his 1986 PhD on "Classical Gauge Field Solutions and Their Topological Properties" with Tigran Tchrakian at DIAS. His career has been spent in IT Carlow, where his interests have broadened to include maths learning support and management science. 

IT Carlow

23. John McCarthy was born 20 Jan in Parteen, Clare, just north of Limerick city, where he went to school. He was educated at first at TCD (Scholar 1982, BA 1983, MA 1987), and then at Berkeley. His PhD on "Analytic Structures for Subnormal Operators" was done under Don Sarason. His career has mostly been spent at Washington Univ in St Louis, where he has supervised a dozen PhD students. His interests include operator theory and complex variables, and he has co-authored 3 books, including Transition to Higher Mathematics: Structure and Proof (2006).


24. Barry Ryan was born in Shannon, Clare, and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1987, MSc 1988), earning an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize.. His 1993 PhD on "Lie-Poisson Integrators in Hamiltonian Fluid Mechanics" was done at Caltech under Philip Saffman. His career has been spent as a quant in London.

25. Applied mathematician Martin Meere was born 5 October in London, and was brought up just outside Ennis, Clare. He was educated at first at UCG (BSc 1988) and UCD (MSc 1989). His 1992 PhD on "Non-linear Diffusion Mechanisms in Compound Semiconductors" was done at Nottingham under John King.  His career has been spent at UCG/NUIG. His current interests are in the mathematical modelling of drug delivery and some systems in molecular biology. He has supervised 4 PhD students


26. Neil O'Connell was born 20 Sep in Cheshire, England, and grew up in Shannon, Clare.  He was educated at first at TCD (Scholar 1987, BA & gold medal 1989, MSc 1990+), with a thesis on "Financial Time Series and the Value of an Option" under Antony Unwin. His 1993 PhD on "The Genealogy of Branching Processes" was done at Berkeley under Steve Evans. His career has taken him to many places, including Edinburgh (1993), DIAS (1993-1994), Bristol (1995-2001), Cork (UCC 2005-2007), Warwick (2007-2016), Bristol again (2016-2017), before finally settling at UCD. His interests include random matrices, and he has supervised 8 PhD students so far.

UCD / Wikipedia


27. Seamus Clifford was born in Clare (?). He was educated at first in material science engineering at Limerick (BSc 1991, MSc 1991, PhD 2001), interspersed with spells working in industry.  He also has a maths degree from the Open University (2018). Since 2001 he has worked at UL where he is now Senior Research Fellow in Civil Engineering and Materials Science.

LinkedIn / ResearchGate

28. Declan O'Keeffe was born in Kilfenora, Clare, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1990?, MSc 1991?).  His 1995 PhD on "Calculation and Application of Tangent Stars" was done under Tony O'Farrell, and in 1998 he did another PhD there on "Topologically Stable Solutions in Static Guage Field Theories in Two and Three Dimensions" under Tigran Tchrakian.  His career has included stints with the Central Bank in Dublin, Royal Bank of Canada, and KPMG.


29. David Galvin was born 26 November in Ennis, Clare, and was educated at first at Cambridge (BA 1995, MA 1996). His 2002 PhD on "Two Problems Involving the Notion of Phase Transition" was done at Rutgers under Jeff Kahn. His career included stints at Microsoft, IAS Princeton and the Univ of Pennsylvania. Since 2007. he has been at Notre Dame. His interests are in combinatorics, graph theory and discrete probability.

Notre Dame

30. Applied mathematician Ray McNamara (1974-2004) was born in Scariff, Clare, and was educated entirely at NIHE/UL. His 2000 PhD on "Numerical Solutions of the Planetary Geostrophic Equations with Applications to Ocean Modelling" was done with Frank Hodnett. He then joined the staff at Mary Immaculate College where he worked until his early death. 


31. Michelle Dillon was born in Tullycrine, east of Kilrush, Clare.  She was educated at first at Limerick (BSc 1997) and DCU (MSc 1998).  After a few years in IT, she joined Met Éireann, and earned another MSc (meteorology, UCD 2006). She is now a familiar sight on TV.


32. Andrew Marsh was born in Kilrush, Clare, and was educated at first at NUIG (BSc 1999, MSc 2000), where he earned an NUI Travelling Studentship Prize. His 2004 PhD on "Topology of Function Spaces" was done at Pittsburgh under Paul Gartside.  He soon switched to the intellectual property field. He also has an MBA from DIT (2019), and is now senior licensing executive in TU Dublin Hothouse.


33. George Hitching was born 11 May in Ennis, Clare, and was educated at first at Maynooth (BA 2000) and Warwick (MSc 2001).  His 2005 PhD on "Moduli of Symplectic Bundles over Curves" was done at Durham (and Nice) under Wilhelm Klingenberg & Christian Pauly.  Most of his career has been spent in Norway, where he has long been at Oslo Metropolitan Univ. His interests include vector bundles over algebraic curves.

Oslo / ResearchGate

34. Mairéad Greene was born 2 March, Kilnamona, northwest of Ennis, Clare, and was at first educated at Maynooth (BSc 2001).  Her 2007 PhD on "On the Index of Cyclotomic Units" was done at Univ Mass (Amherst) under Farshid Hajir.  She then taught at Rockhurst Univ in Kansas City (2007-2020), before returning to Ireland.  She is now at the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at NUIG.


35. Ben Flood was born in Clare, and was educated at Limerick (BSc 2002, PhD 2005+++). His thesis on "Shape Representations for Statistical Analysis" was done under Kevin Hayes.  After a postdoc at TCD (2005-2007), he trained as an actuary.  He currently works in Munich.



36. James O'Shea was born in Shannon, Clare, and was educated entirely at UCD (BSc 2002, MSc 2003, PhD 2007). His thesis on "Levels and Sublevels of Composition Algebras" was done under Thomas Unger.  His career has included stints at Konstanz (2009-2012), Maynooth (2012-2014 & 2016-2017), UCD (2014-2015), NUIG (2015-2016) and DCU (2018-2019). He now works at the Central Stats Office.

DCU / LinkedIn


37. Data scientist Donal McMahon was born in Clare and was educated at first at UCD (BSc 1003, MSc 2004), earning an NUI Travelling Studentship.  His 2009 PhD on "Research Synthesis for Multiway Tables of Varying Shapes and Size" was done at Stanford under Trevor Hastie. His career started at Google, and since 2016 he has been with Indeed in Austin, Texas.



38. James Boland was born in London and grew up in Spanish Point, Clare. He was educated at TCD (BA 2012, PhD 2016), his thesis on "The Herrero Conditions on Norm Limits of Hypercyclic Operators" being done under Richard Timoney.  He now works in Dublin as a data scientist.