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Prometheus's Fire Abstracts

Foreword by the Editor Dr Norman McMillan

In his first encounter with Trinity College in 1971 Dr McMillan was shown around the Physics Department, and in passing his attention was drawn to a heap of old notebooks, which he was told belonged to Fitzgerald, but it seemed no-one wanted them. Later he was shown Lloyd's apparatus. There was however no sense at the time that these might have been historically important.

Gradually however, with the aid of Provost McConnell, Gordon Herries Davies, David Spearman and others a sense of the need to conserve historical artefacts and documents relating to science became more widely known. McMillan spent much of his spare time researching the rich scientific history of the Protestant colonial community to which Trinity College was, and remains, the heir.

After his move to Carlow, he was told, somewhat conspiratorially, about Tyndall, who locally had been forgotten, or perhaps 'disremembered', thanks to his famous 1874 Belfast Address, in which he took a critical view of the religious claims on the domain of cosmology. McMillan goes into the background local history of his attempts to reclaim the Tyndall legacy for Carlow..

His attempts to publish work on the life and times of Tyndall ran into serious obstacles with publishers in the Republic, for what also appeared to be ideological reasons. In the end the work was published, and was positively reviewed abroad, but the quality of the printing left much to be desired, and a revised edition remains on the agenda.

Additional background to this publication exists in the form of various conference proceedings, which arose as a result of an attempt over a long period, in marginal time, by a handful of people to put the history of science in Ireland on to the Irish cultural agenda.. The present publication is a distillation of contributiuons to this process made over a period.

RJ March 2000

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