Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies celebrates 80 years of discovery

When founded in 1940 it was the first such institute in Europe

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) is marking its unique mission and legacy of ground-breaking discoveries with a week of online events culminating in DIAS Day on Friday, which marks the 80th anniversary since the Institute for Advanced Studies Act was enacted.

When founded by taoiseach Éamon de Valera in 1940, DIAS was only the second institute for advanced studies in the world and the first such institute in Europe.

"Since then, DIAS has conducted seminal research and attracted renowned academics from all over the world in its core disciplines of Celtic studies, theoretical physics, astrophysics and geophysics," says its chief executive and registrar Dr Eucharia Meehan.

Its many world-leading researchers included JL Synge whose book Relativity: The General Theory had a profound influence on the subsequent work of Penrose and Hawking on black holes and the geometry of the universe.

They also include the notable work of Denis O'Sullivan and Alex Thompson, who secured the first Irish space experiments on Apollo 16 and the International Space Station.

‘Bold decision’

"The bold decision to establish an advanced institute when the State was in its infancy, at the start of a world war, and at a time when few people in Ireland progressed to secondary education was a powerful message that Ireland was a home for intellectual leadership, independent critical enquiry, and innovative frontier research," Dr Meehan added.

“Eighty years later, DIAS continues to be an ambassador for Ireland and contributes to important global discoveries.”

The institute leads Ireland’s participation in a number of international and global initiatives that focus on big unanswered questions for mankind. Currently, there are about 100 researchers hailing from 20 different countries based at DIAS.

On Friday at 5pm, Dutch Nobel Laureate Prof Gerard 't Hooft will deliver the inaugural DIAS Day Lecture on black holes and how they might be sources of new physics.

Prof Hooft, who received the Nobel Prize in 1999 for his work on gauge theories, will consider how black holes seem to tell us not only important things about particle physics, but also aspects of space and time that are quite unlike what you read in text books.

All this week, DIAS will share #adiscoveryday on its social media platforms. This will include a letter from Nobel Laureate Francis Crick to Erwin Schrödinger, then director of theoretical physics at DIAS, acknowledging the influence of his 'What Is Life?' lectures in his molecular-biological journey with James Watson that culminated in the discovery of the make-up of DNA.

A series of "Lockdown Lectures" by DIAS researchers is also being published on YouTube.

DIAS is donating a copy of Ingenious Ireland to every city and county library across Ireland to mark the 80th anniversary. Written by the late Mary Mulvihill – a pioneer of science communication – it is a county-by-county breakdown of intriguing inventions and discoveries, showcasing Ireland's rich heritage of research, scientific curiosity and inventiveness.

For further information about DIAS and to register for events, visit: www.dias.ie/dias2020/

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times