How the Irish Changed the World

Ireland has a more massive diaspora than any other country in the world. It is estimated that 70 million people outside of Ireland claim Irish ancestry. There are only 4,757,976 (2016 census) living in Ireland, but it's the largest number since the Famine in the mid-1800s. Half the population of Ireland either died or left at that time. But the Irish have been emigrating overseas over the centuries for many reasons. The Flight of the Earls and the Wild Geese were forced out for political reasons. Millions have emigrated for economic reasons as there were few jobs available to the highly educated population. They took their education, their inventiveness and their spunk and applied it wherever they went, changing the world in their wake.

There are another 1,868,046 (2016) living in Northern Ireland but with Brexit looming and the Power Sharing breaking down, we can't really count them in. But another interesting trend is that the Catholic population is reportedly growing faster in NI than the Protestant and reaching parity around now. Could it be that a referendum on Brexit could actually unify Ireland? 

There are so many Irish outside of Ireland that the government has established a Ministerial position dedicated to the diaspora. So why not keep track of all the things the Irish accomplished in the diaspora? Maybe I can do something with it one day.

Robert Boyle (1627-1691) (Lismore, Cork)

“Father of modern chemistry”, author of The Sceptical Chymist

Ernest Walton (1903-1995) (Dungarvan)

First person to artificially split the atom – Nobel Laureate

George Johnstone Stoney (1826-1911) (Oakley Park near Birr, Offaly)

Described and coined the term electron as the fundamental unit of electricity

Robert Mallet

Geophysicist “Father of Seismology”

John Joly

Inventor of meldometer, calorimeter, photometer, colour photography and using radiation for treating cancer.

Lord William Kelvin Thomson

Inventor of the Kelvin Scale and layer of the transatlantic cable.

Vincent Barry

Developed a cure for leprosy

Harry Ferguson

Invented the tractor and was the first Irishman to fly.

John Philip Holland (County Clare)

Invented the submarine which he called the Fenian Ram.

Arthur Guinness

Invented Guinness stout, the bestselling alcoholic beverage of all time.

Louis Brennan (Castlebar, Mayo)

Invented the guided missile as a coastal defence system and the first helicopter.

Sir James Martin (County Down)

Invented the ejector seat

Aeneas Coffey

Invented the first heat exchanger, enabling distilling.

Walter Gordon Wilson (Dublin)

Invented the modern tank.

Samuel O’Reilly

Invented the modern tattoo pen

Francis Rynd (Dublin)

Invented the hollow hypodermic needle in syringe

Rev. Nicholas Callan

Invented the induction coil

Charles Algernon Parsons (Birr, Co. Offaly)

Invented the compound steam turbine

Frank Pantridge

Invented the portable defibrillator

Henry Ford

Henry Ford’s father, William Ford, was born in Ballinascarthy, West Cork, in 1826 and emigrated, initially to Canada and then to the United States. On a trip to Ireland in 1912, Henry Ford visited the area to reconnect with his roots. In 1917, he established a factory manufacturing tractors in Cork. This was to become the first Ford plant in Europe, which at its peak employed 1,800 people. The plant, which ceased production in 1984, had an enormous impact on the life of Cork city and county both economically and socially.

Dr James Barry

British army surgeon in Africa who undertook the first successful caesarean in the world where mother and baby survived. On his deathbed it was discovered Barry was in fact a woman, born Margaret Bulkley, in Dublin. Her mother had told her to disguise herself as a man before she moved abroad in order to practise medicine. Bulkley/Barry was the first qualified female British doctor or surgeon, preceding the next woman by more than half a century.

Sources of Information

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