Take five: 5 fascinating objects on display in the Museum

The Museum of Science and Ecclesiology features an eclectic mix of objects relating to ecclesiastical art and the history of Irish science. Here are just some of the fascinating objects on display:

1. Death mask of Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847)

Death mask of Catholic Emancipator Daniel O'Connell on display in the Museum
Death mask of Catholic Emancipator Daniel O’Connell on display in the Museum

The Museum houses a wax death mask taken one hour after the death of ‘The Liberator’ Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847). O’Connell died in a house in the Via Ponterale, Genoa, on May 15, 1847. He visited Maynooth College just four months previously in January 1847.

For more information on O’Connell’s visit see the following article: Woods, Penny (2010) From the Russell Library: Daniel O’Connell in Maynooth. Síolta.

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Culture Night 2015

The National Science and Ecclesiology Museum will join hundreds of cultural institutions around Ireland taking part in Culture Night 2015. The Museum will open from 7.00 pm until 10.00 pm on Friday, 18th September and from 2.00 pm until 6.00 pm on Sunday, 20th September as part of the annual Culture Night celebrations.

The Museum has the largest collection of scientific instruments on public display in Ireland, many of which were manufactured in Ireland in the period 1880-1920. It also houses an important collection of ecclesiastical artefacts including religious vestments, crosses, and altar stones.

Culture Night is an annual event which celebrates art, culture and heritage throughout the island of Ireland.  For more details of events happening in the Kildare region please see: http://www.culturenight.ie/tax_regional_events/Kildare/


Cracking the (Morse) Code

Morse writing apparatus c1877. Signed: Yeates & Son Dublin
Morse writing apparatus c1877.

The Morse Code system was invented in the 1830s by American artist Samuel Morse. This system of electrical telegraphy utilised a series of dots and dashes to represent letters of the alphabet and numerical values.  The College Museum houses an interesting collection of morse signalling keys, receivers and other objects associated with telegraphy.

This particular piece (see image) is an electro-magnetic relay system, consisting of two coils wound on wooden bobbins, which attracts an armature of soft iron fixed at the end of a lever which pivots about an axle. At the other end of the lever is a spike which marks a paper tape when a signal is received. The tape is fed from a brass reel, passes between two brass rollers, and winds onto a second reel which is turned by clockwork.

The object was issued around the year 1877 by Yeates & Son, Dublin.

Text from The Scientific Apparatus of Nicholas Callan and Other Historical Instruments by Charles Mollan and John Upton (1994)

‘Icons of Irish Science’ – Professor Nicholas Callan

Some years ago Museum Curator Niall McKeith was interviewed about Professor Nicholas Callan as part of the radio series ‘Icons of Irish Science’. The programme was originally broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 on 3rd September 2005.

Professor Nicholas Callan (1799-1864)
Professor Nicholas Callan (1799-1864)

Nicholas Joseph Callan was born on December 22, 1799 and entered Maynooth College in 1816. Callan’s major claim to fame is as the inventor of the induction coil.

‘Icons of Irish Science’ focused on the work of internationally recognised Irish scientists, including George Boole (1815-64), William Rowan Hamilton (1805-65) and Ernest Walton (1903-95).

The podcasts (including the Callan programme) are available here.

Chemical analysis – spectroscopy

Almost all of the instruments in the science collection of the College Museum can be grouped under the heading of physics, since in general terms they deal with the properties of materials rather than with their chemical composition.

Spectrometer (1879-1912)
Giant spectrometer (1879-1912) on display in the College Museum

Exceptions include the instruments and apparatus which are related to the chemical composition of substances, or to means of studying it, including goniometers and spectroscopy. The measurement of crystal angles is aimed chiefly at understanding chemical composition, as is practical spectroscopy.

This giant spectrometer was issued by the firm of Adam Hilger, London. Hilger was one of the leading production firms for such instruments in the late 19th/early 20th century.


Charles Mollan and John Upton, The scientific apparatus of Nicholas Callan and other historic instruments, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, 1994.

Museum visit: The Gerard Manley Hopkins 28th International Festival

On Sunday, 26 July a group from the 28th International Gerard Manley Hopkins Festival visited the Museum and enjoyed a tour with curator Dr Niall McKeith. The annual Festival is a celebration of the poetry and interests of Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and features lectures, workshops and concerts. Here are some photographs of the visit to the Museum…

Museum Curator Niall McKeith and poet Desmond Egan at the 28th International Gerard Manley Hopkins Festival
Curator Niall McKeith and poet Desmond Egan at the 28th International Gerard Manley Hopkins Festival

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Heritage Week at the National Museum of Science and Ecclesiology!

Come and view the largest collection of scientific instruments on public display in Ireland!

Most of this material was manufactured in the Dublin area between 1880 and 1920 and exported all over the world. The Museum is centred around the Rev Prof. Nicholas Callan, inventor of the induction coil. There is also a large collection of ecclesistical items on display and one of only two death masks of Daniel O’Connell. Continue reading