Appreciation Dr Siobhan Vernon

Siobhan Vernon (née O'Shea) was a native of Macroom and it was to the boys' school there that she went for classes in mathematics…

Siobhan Vernon (née O'Shea) was a native of Macroom and it was to the boys' school there that she went for classes in mathematics in the higher-level course for the Leaving Certificate. She entered University College, Cork in 1949 and was awarded a college scholarship on the results of the First Science examinations in 1950.

In 1952 she obtained the degree of B.Sc. in mathematics and mathematical physics, with first-class honours. In 1954 she was awarded the degree of M.Sc. in mathematics and mathematical statistics.

Since 1952 she had been doing some teaching as demonstrator in mathematics, in a support scheme for post-graduate students. Her senior colleagues in teaching mathematics were both future presidents of the college. H. St.J. Atkins, professor of mathematics, became president in 1954 and Tadhg O Ciardha, professor of statistics, was appointed president in 1978. Due to the gradual increase in numbers, or to some exigencies at the time, a need was felt to increase the staffing in mathematics and she was continued as a senior demonstrator after taking her master's degree.

Dr P.B. Kennedy was appointed lecturer in mathematics in 1954 and professor in 1956. He was very active in research and encouraged Siobhán in this. She was appointed to the new full-time post of assistant in 1957.


Her publications had started to flow and Prof Kennedy arranged for her to take leave of absence for 1962-63 as visiting lecturer at Royal Holloway College, University of London.

Following her return, she was awarded the degree of Ph.D. in 1964 by the National University of Ireland, her thesis unusually being composed of her already published papers. She was appointed lecturer in 1965.

Her publications were generally in the field of infinite series, in particular trigonometric series, which is mathematical analysis, but in her teaching she had an inclination to algebra. For many years she taught the first arts course and part of the third arts one, and gave supplementary lectures through the medium of Irish.

Students at various levels profited greatly by her lectures; she was well known to the many who went into teaching. If memory serves, she was one of just two women in this country at university level in pure or applied mathematics in the early days.

She married a colleague, Dr Peter Vernon, of the department of geology, and later reduced her college position to half-time for 10 years while they raised a family of four. She then resumed full-time activity until her retirement in 1988. In 1995 she was honoured by her old school at the Convent of Mercy in Macroom for the achievements of her career, receiving a Catherine McAuley award as a distinguished past pupil.

To such a full academic and family life she added an active social one and had a wide circle of friends. Her final publication came after her retirement, when she contributed by invitation the fine chapter on Paddy Kennedy in Creators of Mathematics: The Irish Connection (ed. Ken Houston, (University College Dublin Press, 2000).

She will be remembered by her students for her contributions to mathematical scholarship and her commitment to the teaching of mathematics.