Leading role played in climate research by Irish scientists recalled

Second Robert Boyle Winter School will examine critical contribution of Boyle and John Tyndall

The leading role Irish scientists played in developing climate science going back hundreds of years, and the current challenge of countering global warming, are the themes of a winter school in the RDS in Dublin this weekend.

The second Robert Boyle Winter School on Saturday will examine the critical contribution of Robert Boyle (in the 17th century) and John Tyndall (in the 19th century).

The day will begin with an examination of Boyle’s life and work, emphasising his importance in developing and popularising the experimental method.

The Robert Boyle Summer school, organised by Calmast (Waterford Institute of Technology's STEM Outreach centre) with the Lismore Heritage Centre, takes place every year in June. Staged in Co Waterford, it celebrates Ireland's scientific heritage as well as issues of science and society.


2020 marks the bicentennial of Tyndall, who was born in Co Carlow and became a colossus of Victorian science. He demonstrated different gases absorb heat at different levels, in effect the mechanism causing climate change.

Modern-day challenges

Dr Norman McMillan, a champion of Tyndall in Ireland, will outline his pioneering work on the "Greenhouse Effect".

RDS president Prof J Owen Lewis, former dean of UCD faculty of Engineering and Architecture, will provide a personal perspective of 50 years at the forefront of Irish energy and climate policy – and related research.

The second part of the school will consider modern-day challenges around climate. DCU-based physicist Dr David Robert Grimes, who specialises in oncology, will present a paper on combating pseudoscience.

His recent book, The Irrational Ape: Why Flawed Logic Puts Us All at Risk and How Critical Thinking Can Save the World, was described by Robin Ince as "a beautifully reasoned book about our own unreasonableness". He will explore why people in society reject the scientific consensus and deny climate change.

The day will conclude with a panel discussion, while the RDS library is putting on display important and rare books relating to Boyle, Tyndall and climate change.

The school takes place at the Minerva Suite in the RDS from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, January 25th. Tickets (cost €12.50) are available at robertboyle.ie

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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