Wednesday, October 16, 2013

William Rowan Hamilton, Irish Mathematician and Discoverer of Quaternions

This rather poorly maintained plaque under Broome Bridge, which straddles the Grand Canal on the northside of Dublin, marks the spot where a certain Irish mathematician had a Eureka moment, on this day (16th October) in 1843. It is a rather humble acknowledgement of a discovery that would prove to be of groundbreaking importance.

Broom bridge plaque
By Wisher at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

The inscription reads:
Here as he walked by on the 16th of October 1843, Sir William Rowan Hamilton, in a flash of genius, discovered the fundamental formula for quaternion multiplication i² = j² = k² = ijk = −1 & cut it on a stone of this bridge.

William Rowan Hamilton portrait oval combined
William Rowan Hamilton
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
William Rowan Hamilton was a midnight child; his date of birth is given as 3-4 August 1805. Growing up, he showed a remarkable aptitude for languages but as he approached his adult years, he started to concentrate more on mathematics - the universal language.

Having studied at Trinity College, Dublin he was appointed Professor of Astronomy in 1827, prior to his graduation and took up residence at Dunsink Observatory, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life.

It was on the occasion of one such stroll from the observatory at Dunsink, along the Grand Canal in the company of his wife that Hamilton had his moment of inspiration that continues to be commemorated, to this day. Mathematicians from all over the world have been known to take part in the commemorative walk retracing Hamilton's steps, which takes place every year on the anniversary.

The event is justly celebrated. The fundamental formula for quaternions continues to have relevance to mathematics in both the theoretical and applied fields, including computer graphics, control theory, signal processing, and orbital mechanics.

Broom Bridge (or Brougham Bridge as Hamilton called it)
Public domain via Wikimedia Commons


Monday, August 26, 2013

Man on Bridge - a photographic archive

'Man on Bridge' is the title of a fascinating project that documents the life and work of street photographer, Arthur Fields, just as he documented the various comings and goings on one of Dublin's best known landmarks, over a 50-year period.

Beginning sometime in the 1930s, until his retirement in 1985 at the age of 84, Arthur took photos of passers-by on Dublin's O'Connell street. Working seven days a week, with hardly ever a break, it is estimated that he took over 182,500 photographs in his lifetime.

Now a web-based project wants to bring all these photos together. People are being asked to submit their own photos taken by Arthur, together with their personal memories and reminisces related to the photograph. Just some of the photos collected so far are available on this Flickr photostream. Included among them are some well-known and instantly recognisable faces.

More about this project is available from El Zorrero Films who have provided this video.



Thursday, April 25, 2013

James Plunkett's Strumpet City - Book of the Month for April

Dublin: One City, One Book is an initiative that encourages Dubliners, and everyone interested in the culture of the city, to read one book (the same book) during the month of April each year. James Plunkett's classic, Strumpet City has been selected as the book for 2013, the year that marks the 100th anniversary of the Dublin Lockout.

The Dublin Lockout was an event that saw over 20,000 workers in Dublin locked out from their places of employment, in a bid by employers of the city (lead by William Martin Murphy) to stamp out trade unionism and organised labour. Strumpet City is a historical novel set against the backdrop of these events.

Regarded by some as 'the great Irish novel', the story was also turned into a successful mini-series, with a script by the late Hugh Leonard and Peter O'Toole playing the role of James Larkin, the leader of the ITGWU who lead the resistance to the employers.

The series was immensely popular in Ireland and was even picked up by broadcasters overseas. It is often fondly remembered for the performance by actor David Kelly (who died last year) in the role of Rashers Tierney. Actor Bryan Murray, who also had a central role in the series, recalls that at the time it was seen almost as an Irish Roots - the TV series about African-American slavery which appeared around the same time.



Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Drive around Dublin through the Decades

1930s and 40s

No information about this footage except that it dates, apparently, from the 1930s and 40s.


Late 1950s

The footage is grainy but about as much as could be expected for the technology that existed at the time - no cellphones, digital cameras, CCTV, and so on.


1965

This footage was obtained, apparently, from a CIE training video. You will notice that Grafton Street is not yet pedestrianised (that didn't happen until the 1980s) while Nelson's Pillar still has a commanding presence over O'Connell Street (it would be gone by the following year).



1976

We've had this one before but it's worth including here for comparison purposes.



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