Tyndall Site Menu

CV of Norman McMillan

Norman McMillan B.Sc., Ph.D., M.I.E.I., C.Eng., Ur. Ing., M.Inst.P., F.R.S.A.

Norman McMillan was born in Ontario of Canadian father and English mother. Educated in United Kingdom with a B.Sc.(Hons.) Portsmouth University and Ph.D. in Experimental Physics from University of Nottingham. Subsequently completed a Post Doctoral Fellowship in Dublin University investigating and ultimately explaining the fibrillation behaviour of stretched polyethylene in an industrial project with Irish Ropes, Newbridge.

Work Experience

1. National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex, England: Optics Division working on manufacture of first chopper UV-visible spectrophotometer.

2. Ferranti Ltd., Edinburgh, Scotland. Working as Communication Engineering Technician developing microwave circulators and rotators.

3. Royal Radar Establishment, Malvern, Worcestershire, England. Working as a Fabrication Technician in Cyril Hylsum's division involved in the fabrication of gallium arsenide laser diodes and specifically concerned with measurements of junction linearity in these 3-5 compounds.

4. ICL, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England. Working as Research Technician concerned with new memory devices. Here invented Hall-Effect Permalloy Non-volatile memory system.

5. Institute of Technology, Carlow, Ireland. Appointed as Senior Lecturer in 1972 and worked in this Institution since that date.


1. Educational

Has developed the first physics and instrumentation technician and courses Science area including those for the Applied Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Photonics Programmes. He also developed some engineering programmes and specifically those in the Mechanical Engineering course.

He was responsible for establishing the 1985 DIAS Physics Summer School in Fiber Optics and Communication and specifically in setting up the Workshop Programme. All the optical programmes in Carlow derive from here including the Photonics Diploma and the derivative optical programmes for the B.Sc in Networking and National Diploma Computer Networking and Optical Communications. Established the Joint Honours. Degree with Essex in Physical Optoelectronics which was the first such course of its kind in Ireland with an UK University. From this course there have been since 1987 over 140 plus graduates. Recently he was appointed Course Director of the new Electronics and Optical Engineering Degree in Carlow. Is currently working on the feeder Optical Engineering Diploma for this degree which would be the first Diploma of its kind in either UK or Ireland. He the first Chair and prime mover in establishing the Optical Engineering Society of Ireland which is the Irish Chapter SPIE-The International Society of Optical Engineering which is run from Carlow.

Has published widely in Journals, magazines, newspapers and elsewhere on educational topics. The book 'Tyndall The 'X'emplar of Scientific and Technological Education' was originally the basis for a Ph.D. study in education at Trinity College with Professor John Heywood. This study was however found to have been in large part dealt with in an earlier Ph.D. study by Donald Thompson in Sheffield University. As a consequence of this topic not being completely virgin soil the material was therefore prepared for publication instead of being used as part of a degree thesis as originally intended. He also worked with Heywood on issues of examination and testing as related to the Carlow science programmes. Prometheus's Fire was also a work initially conceived of in the Education Department in Dublin University.

He developed some radical new approaches to teaching physics at second and third level in Oideas 18 (Fómhar, 1977) which was implemented in Carlow in a project linked to the Education Department in Trinity. This work pioneered a unified mathematical approach in physics teaching.

Later in 1980s he introduced the first applications of imaging in physics laboratory teaching perhaps in the world. This work led to an image processing product based on the Acorn Archimedes platform which was shown at 1989 ASE Meeting. These innovations were published in SSR, Sep1990, 72 (258). Has developed subsequently several research areas involving industrial and educational imaging applications.

He has been involved for years with innovative student project work linked to his work with Heywood. The greatest recognition of this work perhaps was in the supervision of Henry Byrne and Emma Donnelan from FCJ College, Bunclody in 1985 who were the Supreme Champions in the Aer Lingus Young Scientist of the Year. He is currently Director of Research in the Institute of Technology Carlow based research programme into Tensiography which involves presently three Ph.D. students and will it is hoped soon be extended to a European Project in 2001.

2. Professional

McMillan was Secretary of the Institute of Physics Irish Branch for more than five years and produced a range of important innovations in the Irish Branch. He was the founder and editor for some ten years of the Irish Branch Newsletter. He was the founder of the Tyndall Lecture Demonstration Series in 1977 and ran this national event for more than a decade, which in 1982 was televised on RTE in an hour programme that included the first 3-D effect to be shown on television in Ireland. He suggested the extension of this Tyndall lecture series to the UK in an article to Physics Education and personally to the 1980 Tyndall Lecturer which was subsequently the first of the UK series. This initiative was taken up by Education Committee in London and led directly to the establishment of the Institute's School Physics Lecture Series. He also established the Stokes-Walton lecture Series in 1979 for the Regional Technical Colleges (now Institutes of Technology).

He began the Morning session of the Branch at their Spring Weekend informally for two years, which was subsequently incorporated in its formal programme at the Waterford Spring Weekend in 1982. He established the Education Sub-committee and the Industry Sub-committee of the Irish Branch. The latter innovation was under the Chairmanship of Dr. Roy Johnston. In 1983 he produced the first publication of the Irish Branch of the Institute of Physics with 'Higher Technological Education in Ireland.' Himself and M.Farry edited this book. His activities in the Institute coincided with the growth of the Branch membership from under 200 to something in excess of 500 when he stepped down as Honorary Secretary.

He has been active in developing the Optical Engineering Society of Ireland (Irish Chapter of SPIE-The International Engineering Society) and founded their Newsletter 'Optula' and was the first editor. The Society has operated from Carlow since its foundation in 1985.

In 1997 he established with the assistance of Bord Fáilte and working initially with a sub-committee of OESI including Professor Patrick Wayman and Dr Gerry Wardell the National Committee for Science and Engineering Plaques. This committee expanded to incorporate other interest groups quickly to become a national committee for all sciences, engineering, medicos and explorers. The Committee has now erected or commissioned nearly one third of the projected 150 plaques it intends to have erected on appropriate buildings around the country. This project will perhaps deliver a greater awareness of Ireland's scientific and industrial heritage than any other initiative developed to date. It will establish national trails and an active web support system for tourists, enthusiasts, young people and others who might be researching these aspects of the country's national heritage.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for his involvement in educational matters. He is keen on progressing practical advances of professional structures and has been involved at a local level in Carlow in several ways. He was Secretary of the Carlow Scientific Council for some ten years and also Secretary of the Local Trades Council and has also been active in the Teachers Union of Ireland as Secretary for six years and held other offices over a thirty year period. At a national level in the TUI he was active as Secretary of the 'National Panel' which in the 1970s forced on the reluctant leadership of the TUI to establish formal structures for the third level colleges independent of those of the second level. He is particularly interested in the practical role of such societies and organisations in the development of technical education and in evolving local industrial initiatives.

3. Tensiography and Optical Engineering

He is acknowledged as the founder of tensiography, which can be defined as the computer (graphical) analysis that allows for monitoring, measurement or analysis of signals obtained from various sensors deriving their responses from growing liquid drops to provide information on the liquids, or components in these liquids, or at the surfaces of these liquids. He holds patents on optical fiber tensiography. He also holds a patent on ultrasonic tensiography with colleagues, principally with his closest collaborator Dr. Andy Augousti whom has also led the development also of the capacitive tensiograph. His took out patents also on new drop imaging techniques. The technique is now very well developed and has begun to evolve into a general science based on various modalities. In McMillan's Carlow laboratory has been developing a commercial product that should be launched in 2001. If this is achieved it will be one of the first such developments of a commercial product from the initial invention of a new science to the first commercial product in Ireland. Obviously, the intention is to develop a range of such tensiographic products. This work has been pioneered with Carl Stuart Ltd., Tallaght, Dublin.

He has published very widely in this new field of Tensiography and you will see from this Web site that it is the intention to establish a new international journal for this emerging field. McMillan will be a principal editor of The International Journal for Tensiography and Computer Methods in Surface Science. He is working in developing this new field with Dr. Augousti and Dr. Habil Reinhard Miller, Max-Planck Institute for Colloids and Surfaces. This work is being extended independently by Dasgupta in Lubbock (see for details on the Texan work and its relationship with McMillan the review paper Microchemical Journal 57, 127-136, 1997 for example although his early papers all emphasise this connection).

His other research work in this field of optical engineering is principally in instrumental with publications on computer imaging, fiber-optic, spectroscopic and related instrumental technologies. Recent work has focused on the important issue of colour measurements. New computer methods have been devised which successfully overcome the problem of error propagation in the long-standing problem of the analysis data of mixtures of chromophores. This technique arguably makes UV-visible spectroscopy a powerful qualitative technique.

6. Robotics, Computing and Imaging

McMillan developed in 1983 onwards two computer sports games simulations. The games Surf Champ and Ski Champ were commercial initiatives, which were marketed with some commercial success. These were based on a patented keyboard overlay in the shape of a surfboard and ski.

In 1987 he developed a crystal analyser system which was a fully working robotic system for analysing sugar crystal that have been mechanically separated with a speed of some 1000 crystals a minute. This work was published in both Microscopy and Analysis (May 1992) and in the industry journal Sugar y Azucar (August 1991). This was the first ever-imaging robotic system for such quality control applications and has subsequently been developed by Brown in Nottingham for geological and pharmaceutical applications, the latter with Boots.

The work on imaging has been initially in the field of education described above. Subsequently, industrial imaging systems were developed in 1987.

The McMillan technique is a Hough inspired technique for measurement in tensiographic traces (Irish Machine Vision and Image Processing Society Proceedings, Dublin City University 1999). This technique has recently been applied to colour measurements and measurement of edge positions. This technique has also found application in video applications. This work is being developed in a collaboration with Fionn Murtagh, Computer Science Department in The Queen's University Belfast.

7. History of Science

McMillan is perhaps best known for his work on the History of Irish Science, Engineering, Technology and Education. This is a field, which has made a major contribution since he began working on this in 1973. He has published widely on many aspects of this including two books on John Tyndall. 'John Tyndall, The 'X'emplar of Scientific and Technological Education' and 'John Tyndall: Essays on a Natural Philosopher' both of which appeared in 1981. His publications on Tyndall are quite extensive and he is considered by many as the leading expert on this topic. He wrote the entry on Tyndall in the latest Dictionnaire des Philosophes (University of Paris) which he considers to be a definitive piece of work in that it explains for the first time Tyndall's philosophical contributions in the historical context of his day and identifies for the first time Tyndall's own philosophical inspirations.

He has a considerable publication record on the life and work of Samuel Haughton. He was the Chair of the History of Science and Engineering Conference in 1985 Trinity which led to the publication of the book 'Science in Ireland 1800- 1930: Tradition and Reform' (Dublin, 1988). This book included a study of Haughton and was edited with Nudds, Weaire and Lawlor. He has worked generally on Dublin science but with a research focus principally on the relation of the developments in Ireland to those on the continent. He is specifically interested in the dynamics of the 19th century colonial arrangements that existed at this period. His rescue of a lost volume Lectures on Natural Philosophy (1739) by Richard Helsham led to a recent reprint by the Institute of Physics Publishing. He also saved Fitzgerald's Research Notebooks from being destroyed and returned them to the Trinity Archive.

8. Environmental Research

McMillan has long and active interest environmental issues that stretch back to the 1960s. He was Director of the International Tyndall School and National Environmental Week which in 1993 ran a very extensive programme of events in Carlow to commemorate the Tyndall Centenary. This event produced the first Tyndall Publication entitled 'Science, Green Issues and the Environment: Ireland and the Global Crisis', that appeared in 1995 edited by D.McMillan, C. O'Rourke, D.Fry and N.McMillan. Subsequently he was on the Committee that erected a monument to G.G.Stokes in Screen and later established the Stokes School. The monument to Stokes can be seen in the photograph used here which shows McMillan and Anne Cruickshank who is a direct descendent of Stokes. Shortly the National Plaque to Stokes will be erected on the new Stoke building in the Institute of Technology in Sligo.

Home    Ordering
Link to Contact us Link to Product ordering Link to Tyndall Link to Publications Link to information about the authors Background Contact us Ordering Tyndall Books Home Page