Science and research

 

Sir, – Peter Lynch (Science Today, July 16th) provides a fascinating article on the work of Cornelius Lanczos, brilliant Hungarian theorist and erstwhile professor of theoretical physics at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS). Indeed, some historians claim that, in early work on Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Lanczos came within a hair’s breadth of predicting the expansion of the universe many years before it was observed.

Prof Lynch states that “the Institute had been established in 1940 by Éamon de Valera, with a School of Theoretical Physics and a School of Celtic Studies, reflecting de Valera’s keen interest in mathematics and in the Irish language”.

I would add that the founding of DIAS also reflected de Valera’s great insight that world-class research could be done in each of these fields at relatively low cost. It is a sad irony that funding for research in such non-applied fields has been extremely limited in Ireland in recent years. One can only hope that our new Minister for Higher Education, Innovation and Science will share de Valera’s appreciation of the importance of fundamental research. – Yours, etc,

CORMAC O’RAIFEARTAIGH,

School of Science

and Computing,

Waterford Institute

of Technology,

Visiting Associate Professor,

School of Physics,

University College Dublin.