Portrait of pioneering Irish female scientist unveiled in Dublin

Dr Sheila Tinney was first-ever Irish woman to earn a PhD in mathematical science

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education, unveils a portrait of  Sheila Tinney at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), watched by the late Dr Tinney’s children, Ethna, Hugh and Deirdre Tinney.  Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education, unveils a portrait of Sheila Tinney at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), watched by the late Dr Tinney’s children, Ethna, Hugh and Deirdre Tinney. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

A new portrait of the mathematical physicist Dr Sheila Tinney was unveiled on Tuesday at Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) by her daughters and son – Ethna, Deirdre and Hugh Tinney.

In 1941, Dr Tinney became the first-ever female fellow at DIAS, prior to her appointment as research associate. She was the first Irish woman to earn a PhD in mathematical science, and was among the first four women admitted to the Royal Irish Academy. A native of Galway, she attended UCD as an undergraduate and later lectured there.

The portrait, by Judith Henihan, was acquired by DIAS thanks to support from the International Women’s Forum (Ireland) and benefactors from the Friends of DIAS initiative.

She excelled in her field . . . and could count some of the most famous and influential minds in history as colleagues

Hugh Tinney said the family was very proud of their mother’s legacy as a pioneering female scientist – and of the contribution she made to her field, through her work at DIAS and elsewhere. “We are delighted her portrait will hang permanently at DIAS, and we hope it inspires generations of future scientists to build on her scientific achievements.”

“Given that she spent many years working here, it is fitting that DIAS will be the permanent home for this wonderful new portrait,” said DIAS chief executive and registrar Dr Eucharia Meehan. “She excelled in her field . . . and could count some of the most famous and influential minds in history as colleagues: while at DIAS Erwin Schrödinger and Walter Heitler, and elsewhere Albert Einstein and Freeman Dyson, to mention but a few.”

In 2016, when the RIA and Accenture were commissioning portraits of female scientists, Henihan did an initial sketch of the physicist. She left it to one side but kept coming back to it and later decided to finish it.