The Atlas of Irish Mathematics: Roscommon (Oct 2022)

Our 33rd bi-monthly regional Irish focused blog highlights mathematical people associated with Roscommon, following on Donegal, Wexford, Armagh, Limerick, Westmeath, Mayo, Belfast, Wicklow, Kerry, Galway, Monaghan, Tipperary, Sligo, Carlow, Down, Cork, Cavan, Laois, Londonderry, Meath, Leitrim, Dublin, Clare, Offaly, Tyrone, Kilkenny, Belfast again, Kildare, Louth, and Waterford.  Only Antrim remains  Most of the blogs on counties which include universities will need additional installments to bring their stories into the 21st century.

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 Roscommon.

If we indicate "born in Roscommon" without adding the word "town" there is a reason: we don't know where in the county the person was born.

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

Thanks to Olivia Bree (SPD) and David Malone & Tony O'Farrell (Maynooth) for valuable input. Last updated 28 Jun 2024.


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01. St George Ashe (1657-1718) was born 3 March in Castle Strange, Rocommon, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1674, BA 1676, MA & Fellow 1679, BD 1687, DD 1692). He was the 2nd Donegall Lecturer of maths there (1685-1692), then served as provost (1692), and later as vice-chancellor (1701). From 1695 on, he also held appointments as bishop of Cloyne, Clogher, and Derry, in turn.

Wikipedia / TCD

02. Matthew Young (1750-1800) was born 3 October in Castlerea, Roscommon, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1769, BA 1772, MA 1774, Fellow 1775, BD 1782, DD 1786). His career was mostly spent at TCD, where he was the 20th Donegall Lecturer in Mathematics (1782-1886), and then the 6th Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural & Experimental Philosophy (1786-1799), then regius professor of Greek (1799). He published the books An Enquiry into the Principal Phenomena of Sounds and Musical Strings (1784), and An Analysis of the Principles of Natural Philosophy (1800). In 1798 he was made a bishop of Clonfert (Galway).


03. John Walker (1768-1833) was born in January in Roscommon, and was educated at TCD (Scholar 1788, BA 1790, Fellow 1791, MA 1793, BD 1800). He was Donnelan lecturer in 1799, but in 1804 he parted company from TCD on doctrinal grounds.  He spearheaded his own religious movement, supporting himself by tutoring.  From 1819 till shortly before his death he was based in England. His books include a translation of Richard Murray's 1773 Artis logicæ compendium as A Familiar Commentary on the Compendium of Logic (1805), The First, Second and Sixth Books of Euclid's Elements (1808), The Philosophy of Arithmetic (1812) and Euclid's Elements of Plane Geometry (1827). A man of the same name, believed to be older, was teaching classics and mathematics at Usher’s Island in 1788.

DIB / DNB / CIB / Kissing / Essays

04. Ralph Glover (1847?-1881) was born to a family from Castlerea, Roscommon, and was educated at Queen's, Galway (BA 1869), where he was also a senior scholar.  He worked in banking in Australia and died young there.



04B. James Adams Stewart (1865-1906) was born 1 December in Darvagh, south of Coleraine, Londonderry, and was educated at Queen's Belfast (BA 1888). His short career was spent as the principal of the Academic Institute in Boyle, Roscommon. He also set up The Electric Light and Power Works there, which in his later years manufactured ice as well. His wife Catherine continued to run the business after his death.

1901 / Bio / Obit


05. George Maxwell (1880-1960) was born 29 September in Curraghard, southwest of Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon.  He was educated at Queen's, Galway (BA 1903). He later became a clergyman, spending his whole career in Ireland.

1901 Census / 1911 Census / WikiTree / Grave


08. Agnes "Molly" Perry (1882-1963) was born 5 June in Roscommon, and grew up in Galway town.  She was educated at Queen's College Galway (BA 1903, MA 1905), where she was the 6th woman graduate, and the 1st woman to get an honours maths degree.  (Her younger sister Alice also excelled in maths there, but switched track and made history as the first female engineering graduate.)  In 1949, Molly was described as "the most distinguished mathematician of her time in the college".  She lectured in maths at Queen's (1903-1904), thus becoming the first woman to teach maths at the 3rd level.  She was RUI examiner 1906, and earned pedagogy credentials at Bedford College (1906-1907).  She then taught at Winchester High School (1908-1909) and Camden School for Girls (1910-1914- ?), retiring in 1936. Soon thereafter she moved to Renvyle, and later back to Galway.

1901 Census / Wikipedia / Teaching / 1937

07. Fred O'Connor (1908-1987) was born 7 April in Polranny, Mayo, next to Achill Sound, and grew up in Roscommon and Westmeath.  He was educated at TCD (BA 1930, MA 1938) and was assistant at Dunsink (1924-1937 & 1947-1955). He taught maths and astronomy at TCD (1938-1964).

1911 Census / Obit / Obit 2


08. Michael Day (1914-2011) was born in Strokestown, Roscommon, and grew up in Castlefin, Donegal, just west of Strabane.  He was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1934).  He moved to San Diego in 1938 for parish work and remained there his entire career.



09. Michael Connaughton (1930?- ) was educated at UCG (BSc 1952, MSc 1953).  Nothing further is known.



10. Joe Spelman (1932-2016) was born 2 September in Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon, and was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1954, MSc 1955), his master's thesis on "Production and Loss of 'Negative Protons' in the Atmosphere" being done under Jim McConnell.  In the early 1960s, eh spent a year at DIAS, then a year at Stanford.  He taught at St Nathy's (1965-1969) and then back at Maynooth (1969-1992) as prof of maths physics.  The rest of his career was spent in parish work in Sligo.



11. Ray Kearns (1930-2022) was born Nov in Ballaghaderreen, in northwest Roscommon, and was educated at first at UCD (BA 1956, HDip).  He taught at James St CBS, then studies at the Univ of Pittsburgh, before spending most of the 1960s teaching maths at Gonzaga.  He founded the Institute of Education in Lower Leeson St in Dublin in 1969, where he remained for the rest of his career.

Inst Edu 1 / Video / IT / Indo


12. Desmond Sheahan was born 27 September in Boyle, Roscommon, and was educated at first at UCD (BE 1958) and at Woolich Polytech in London.  After a few years at Standard Telephone in London, he started his long career at GTE Lenkurt in the USA, also completing his PhD on "Inductionless Filters" at Stanford in 1967 under Robert Newcomb.  He co-edited the 1977 book Modern Crystal & Mechanical Filters. and had many patents to his name.

1967 / 1976

13. John Kirby was born 29 October in Baylough, Roscommon, next to Athlone, Westmeath.  He was educated at Maynooth (BSc 1959), and following his ordination he taught at Garbally, later becoming principal there. He served at bishop of Clonfert (1988-2019).



15. Margaret Farrell was born in Roscommon and was educated at UCG (BA 1975) and Maynooth (MSc).  She is a nun.


16. Theoretical physicist Ralph Kenna was born 27 August on the Roscommon side of Athlone, and was educated at first at TCD (BA 1985, MSc 1988).  His 1993 Dr rer Nat on "Nullstellen der Zustandssumme und Renormierungsgruppen-Analyse im ϕ^4_4 Modell" ("Zeros of the Partition Function and Renormalization-Group Analysis of the \phi^4_4 Model") was done under Christian Lang at Graz.  After several years each at Liverpool and TCD, in 2002 he settled at Coventry.  His interests include phase transitions in statistical mechanics and critical phenomena, as well as digital humanities and sociphysics.  He has supervised 8 PhD students and co-authored the book Maths Meets Myths: Quantitative Approaches to Ancient Narratives (2017). In 2019, he was awarded Doctor Honoris Causa by the National Academy of Sciences in Ukraine

Wikipedia / Coventry / Ukraine

17. Computational biologist Shaun Mahony was born in Castlerea, Roscommon, and was educated at NUIG (BE 2000?, PhD 2005). His thesis on "Self-organising Neural Networks for Biological Sequence Analysis" wad done with Aaron Golden.  He was at MIT (2007-2012) before settling at Penn State.

Penn State

18. Liam Naughton was born 6 August in Castlebar, Mayo, and grew up nearby in Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon. He was educated entirely at NUIG (BSc 2005, MSc 2006, PhD 2010), his thesis on "Computing the Table of Marks of a Finite Group" being done under Götz Pfeiffer.  Staying in Galway for a postdoc, he has been at Wolverhampton since 2015.  His main interests are in computational group theory.

Wolverhampton / LinkedIn


19. David Quinn born in Ballinasloe, Galway, and grew up closeby near Ballyleague, Roscommon.  He was educated at Galway (BSc 2005, PhD, 2009+), his thesis on "Three Problems in Algebraic Combinatorics" being done under Emil Sköldberg.  After a year at QUB (2010-2011), his career has been at Aberdeen (2012-2015) and then Edinburgh.





20. Cian Costello (1984-2010) was born in Ballyfarnon, Boyle, Roscommon.  He was educated at UCD (BSc 2006, PhD 2010), dying tragically young.  His doctoral research in statistics was done under Adrian Dunne, who recalls, "he modelled the relationship between drug release from an intra-muscular injection in humans and that from a laboratory based system. His work was instrumental in the U.S. Food and Drugs Administration authorising a new treatment for schizophrenia."  His degree was awarded posthumously on the basis of published work and presentations at conferences.



21. Paul Conlon was born in Roscommon and was educated at UCD (BSc physics 2005?, MSc 2006?) and TCD (PhD 2009).  His thesis on "Fields, Fractals and Flares: Characterising Magnetic Complexity in Solar Active Regions" was done under Peter Gallagher. His career so far has been spent with Bank of America in Dublin.