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National Committee for Science & Engineering Commemorative Plaques

The brief of the committee is to promote a public awareness of Irish contributions to science, engineering, medicine, technical education, economics and exploration, both nationally and internationally.   The committee seeks to achieve its objectives through the erection of plaques to commemorate important historic figures in these fields that were either born in Ireland , or who made their major contributions whilst working in Ireland .


During the past decade, the National Committee has erected over fifty plaques to commemorate those who have achieved national or international eminence in science, engineering, education or exploration. A number of these of plaques are being devoted to commemorating the significant contributions of women to the national scientific and engineering traditions of the country. These plaques are being commissioned in association with WITS (Women in Technology and Science).


Locations of plaques include:   the entrance of University College Galway (George Johnstone Stoney, the man who named the electron); the entrance to Heuston Station (John Macneill, Railway Engineer); on schools in relatively remote rural town lands such as Tinryland, Co. Carlow (Patrick J. Dowling, Engineer-in-Chief of the Rural Electrification Scheme); on buildings named in their honour (George Gabriel Stokes on the Stokes Building in Sligo Institute of Technology and Edward Conway, on the Conway Institute Building, in University College Dublin); on country houses (Maria Edgeworth, for her pioneering educational work and her father Richard Lovell Edgeworth for his work in engineering, both in Edgeworthstown); in public parks (John Tyndall and Nicholas Vigors in the Memorial Park in Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow); beside canals and harbours (Thomas Grubb at the site of his famous optical engineering factory on the Grand Canal in Dublin and Alexander Nimmo at Roundstone Harbour, Co. Galway); on family homes in Dublin (Ernest Shackleton, the internationally famous explorer at his former residence in Marlborough Road, and John Boyd Dunlop in Ailesbury Road in Dublin); in hotels (Anne Jellicoe, in Buswell’s Hotel in Dublin, the building in which she founded the Queen’s Institute for Women, the first technical education institute for women); Athlone East Station (the Athlone railway bridge, designed by George Willoughby Hemans is a short distance away); at industrial sites (John Purser Griffith at Poulaphouca Dam in Co. Kildare and Thomas McLaughlin at Ardnacrusha Power Station, Co. Clare); and at historic locations (William Molyneux’s plaque is in Crow Street, Dublin, the site of the first meeting of the important Dublin Philosophical Society).  


The national plaques project was initiated in 1996 following the approach of Matt McNulty, Chief Executive of Bord Fáilte, to Dr. Norman McMillan, Prof. Patrick Wayman, Dr Gerry Wardell and Dr Ian Elliott with the idea of erecting plaques to scientists, engineers, and others in order to promote a wider appreciation of the country’s scientific and technical achievements, in addition to the existing recognition of Ireland’s literary, artistic and musical traditions.   The National Science & Engineering Commemorative Plaques Committee was established under the chairmanship of Prof. Patrick Wayman.   Following his untimely death in 1998, the committee has been led by Dr Ronald Cox of Trinity College Dublin.   After many years of painstaking effort work, he and the committee have advanced the to the prospect of a successful conclusion before 2012, at which time it is hoped that upwards of 200 plaques will have been erected.   The committee membership has included representatives from most of the major professional organisations in the fields of engineering, biology, physics, chemistry, astronomy and science education, but has also had representatives from cultural organisations such as the Royal Irish Academy and the Royal Dublin Society.   Most importantly, the committee has always cooperated with WITS. The important contribution to science and engineering by women has been recognised by the work of this society, established specifically to promote an awareness of women’s cultural and scientific contributions, not only in past years, but also in today’s society.


The design of a distinctive plaque was undertaken by Danny Osborne, well known for his internationally acclaimed sculpture of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square in Dublin .   The spiral symbol on the plaques was selected for its universal and elegant form in science and engineering.   It was considered to be an appropriate symbol for recognition of those who worked in such diverse fields. The basic design has been continued by other ceramic artists, in particular Fiona Coffey and, more recently, Terry Carlin with a fine plaque to Robert Boyle (Founder of Modern Chemistry).

Individuals or organisations wishing to sponsor a specific plaque or a set of plaques, should note that the cost of €1,200 per plaque represents an excellent investment in the promotion of our scientific and engineering heritage.

For further information, contact:
Dr Norman McMillan,



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