Gaelic Tech: Top Irish Contributions to Science and Industry

Gaelic Tech: Top Irish Contributions to Science and Industry

Summary: Think Ireland is all about the Guinness, Corned Beef & Potatoes? How about Color Photography, Seismology and Submarines?

TOPICS: Tech Industry

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  • Submarines: John Philip Holland

    John Philip Holland, an Irish-American immigrant, was the first person to successfully launch a submarine. The first sub was named the “Fenian Ram.” By 1900 the U.S. Navy was formally commissioning the production of submarines based on Holland's design.

  • Cars, Tanks, Guided Missiles, Monorails & Helicopters: Sir Winston Churchill & Louis Brennan

    During the First World War, Dublin-raised Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary of Great Britain, commissioned the design of a vehicle “capable of resisting bullets and shrapnel, crossing trenches, flattening barbed wire, and negotiating the mud of no-man’s land.” 

    That design become the precursor to the modern tank.

    Another Irishman, Louis Brennan, came up with the design for the first guided missile system for coastal defense (essentially a steerable torpedo), the first functional helicopter, monorail trains and also the ejector seat. Another Irishman and engineer, James Martin, co-founded the Martin-Baker company, which to his very day produces ejector seats for military aircraft.

    We probably also shouldn't forget Henry Ford, who was the American-born son of an Irishman, and invented the means of mass-producing automobiles, as well as pretty much everything else in the modern industrial age that uses an assembly line.

  • Columnar Distillation: Aeneas Coffey

    Aeneas Coffey may be Ireland's and also St. Paddy's Day's greatest legacy. You see, prior to the invention of the columnar distillation process, the manufacturing of distilled alcoholic beverages — whiskeys, vodkas, gins, rums, brandies, tequilas, you name it — all were done with "pot stills," or small-scale production processes which were not economically feasible for mass production of these boozy libations.

    So when you're having your Irish Coffee the day after St. Pat's to bring you out of your hangover, thank another Coffey: Mr. Aeneas, for allowing whiskey to be consumed by Irish and hard drinkers the world over.

Topic: Tech Industry


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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  • Gaelic Tech: Top Irish Contributions to Science and Industry

    There is nothing whatsoever Irish about corned beef.
    • beef

      Other than the fact that from the 17th to mid 19th century...Ireland was the largest producer of corned beef
  • Churchill Dublin Raised ?!

    Winston Churchill "Dublin-raised Winston Churchill," Dublin raised, is a bit tenuous isn't it, for arguable one of the most famous and influential people in British History.

    5 minutes on Google added the below missed off the list...

    ...Boyle (Chemistry), Beaufort (Meteorology), Dunlop (Tyres, company of the same name, anglo-Scottish), Fergusson (as in Massey-Fergusson Tractors), Martin (Ejector seat)

    Not sure the Titanic or DeLorean are shining examples of great engineering,.
    • Gaelic Tech

      Such is the totality of relationship between the islands in the north east European archipelago. All of 19th century Ireland was "British". Winston Churchill lived in Dublin from age two to six when his paternal grandfather John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough etc etc. was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1876 to 1880). Winston Churchill’s first cousins on his mother side lived at Leslie Castle in what is now Northern Ireland. Tenuous? Perhaps : )
      Which segway’s to the fact that the majority of the Irish scientific luminaries listed are not "Gaelic” in the ethno- national terms but rather Anglo-Irish; such were the Victorian social-economic conditions of the time. Of course my favourite is not listed i.e. Irish born 19th century physicist, John Tyndall who works are the basis for the theory of anthropomorphic global climate change.
  • Titanic and DeLorian failures ... NOT technical!

    The Titanic was a great piece of engineering, but even it had its weaknesses, which its users (the White Star Lines) failed to take into account. The ship was "sink-resistant" but was treated as UN-sinkable, and the captain steered it into a field of icebergs to make an overly optimistic schedule. The same kind of HUBRIS wrecked the Hindenberg, the Challenger space shuttle, and countless cars and pickup trucks (hold my beer and watch this!) over the years.

    The DeLorean was also a great engineering feat, but the combination of its high price, resulting in a narrow, upscale market niche, and Mr. DeLorean's out-of-office behavior with respect to drugs, resulted in failure at the marketing end.

    Anyone who has to drive in rain curses the inability to open and close umbrellas under cover (in addition to which, the WET umbrella, once closed, has to be lifted over the driver's lap and both seats to stow it for the trip), and to make it worse, storage space is provided in pockets IN THE DOORS, which exposes the contents to the rain AND the drip from the umbrella. If all car doors opened like the DeLorean's doors, this problem, AND the problem of narrow margins to swing doors open enough to get in and out, would be solved. It's just too bad that this technology has ONLY appeared in a very expensive car that went out of production for other reasons.
    • You cannot ding shipworks in Belfast...

      As not being a huge technical achievement. White Star's Olympic class vessels aside, it produced a tremendous amount of ships, many of them which had long and storied careers.
  • Gaelic Tech in Fiction

    Since Watt and Bell (a Scottish immigrant to the U.S.) have such a prominent place in technology, is it any wonder that Star Trek writers made the chief engineer of the Enterprise in the original series Scottish, and the chief engineer of the Enterprise-D in the Next Generation (plus the DS9 space station) Irish?
  • My personal favorite irishman is Philip Lynott

    His "Sarah" is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.
  • i like sarah

    i like sarah, she is very succesfull for