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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.
Atom Smashing: Ernest Walton
Before there was a Large Hadron Accelerator to validate the existence of the Higgs Boson, before the Atomic Bomb, before the first Atomic pile built by Enrico Fermi, there was the Cockcroft-Walton Generator, an early form of the particle accelerator. It was co-developed by Irishman Ernest Walton and John Cockcroft at Cambridge University during the 1930s, and made Walton the first man to artificially split the atom and the only Irishman to ever win a Nobel Prize in Science.