Kirby Sullivan, William

William Kirby Sullivan (1822-1890)               

William Kirby Sullivan was born in Dripsey, County Cork in 1822.  His father owned a paper mill.  He was educated at the North Monastery Christian Brothers School in Cork and he studied chemistry under Justus von Liebig at Giessen where he completed his PhD.

Sullivan’s first paper was a first description of the iron test for phosphates which became the standard test.  He became an assistant to Robert Kane who was the director of the Museum of Economic Geology of Ireland (later the Museum of Irish Industry).  In 1846 he was appointed chemist to the Museum.  His main work was in chemical analysis.  In 1856 he was appointed Professor of Chemistry in the Catholic University of Ireland and succeeded Robert Kane as President of Queen’s College Cork (now UCC) in 1873.  Under Sullivan’s Presidency the University flourished.  Besides university administration and chemistry, Sullivan had other interests including the publication of a three volume work on pre-Christian Irish Culture.

William Sullivan was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1857.  He was President of Queen’s College, Cork from 1873 to 1890.  He was awarded a D.Sc. from the Royal University of Ireland in 1882.

Further Reading:

Mollan, Charles. 2007. It’s Part of What We Are. Dublin. Royal Dublin Society.

Wheeler, TS. 1945. Life and Work of William K Sullivan, Studies, 34, 21-36.


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