Co Offaly, highlighted on the map on the right, might commonly be associated with our former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, or great All-Ireland winning hurling and gaelic football teams, but it is not often associated with producing famous scientists.
Fact is, though, that this small midlands county, with a current population of just 76,806 (2011 Census) has produced at least three world class scientists: William and Charles Parsons and John Joly.
Today we’ll be talking to John Joyce, a retired scientist and tour guide at Birr Castle, the ancestral home of the Parsons family, about the lives and achievements of William and Charles Parsons, and to Patrick Wyse-Jackson, geologist, and curator of the TCD Geology Museum about the life of John Joly.
Interview with John Joyce & Patrick Wyse Jackson discussing famous Offaly scientists
First broadcast on 2.02.2012 on Dublin City FM
The world’s largest telescope, seen here above, was for more than 70 years, the so-called Leviathan, built by William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, and the local people of Birr, Co Offaly in 1845.
In the year the Great Famine officially began, the massive telescope at Birr Castle was put to work, peering out into the heavens and making new discoveries.
One of the discoveries made by the Earl, when using the telescope was that galaxies often formed into a spiral shape, and the first one of these spiral galaxies he discovered was the Crab Nebula.
The Earl was a genius with chemistry and materials, and this was crucial in the building of such an effective and powerful telescope, which people travelled from all over Europe and beyond to see.
Listen: Interview with John Joyce, Birr Castle Guide, on the life of William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse
First broadcast on Dublin City FM.