THE ROYAL IRISH ACADEMY IS IRELAND'S LEADING BODY OF EXPERTS IN THE SCIENCES AND HUMANITIES

The Royal Irish Academy/Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann champions research. We identify and recognise Ireland’s world class researchers. We support scholarship and promote awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society. We believe that good research needs to be promoted, sustained and communicated. The Academy is run by a Council of its members. Membership is by election and considered the highest Academic honour in Ireland.

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Early Scientific Works

An introduction to the scientific collections held by the Academy Library.

Scientific subjects are well represented among the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century library holdings of the Royal Irish Academy. The varied subject matter includes astronomy, chemistry, geology, mathematics, natural history (botany, mineralogy, zoology, etc) and natural philosophy (physics). Titles in German and French predominate, but there are also books in Danish, Dutch and Italian as well as English and Latin. Many of the books are illustrated.

Richard Kirwan

Among the prominent founder members of the Academy in 1785 was the Galway-born scientist Richard Kirwan 1733-1812 who had special interests in chemistry, geology and meteorology. His best- known works were his Elements of mineralogy (London, 1784), An essay on the analysis of mineral waters(London, 1799), and An essay on phlogiston and the constitution of acids (London, 1787). Kirwan bequeathed his collection of books to the Academy on his death in 1812 (RIA MS 3 A 6 is a manuscript list of that bequest). Books on chemistry predominate. Some years earlier, he had shipped a collection of his books from Galway to London, but a privateer captured the ship and sold its cargo. Following this mishap, some of Kirwan’s books were eventually acquired by the Salem Athenaeum, Massachusetts. Kirwan, who was president of the Royal Irish Academy 1799-1812, published numerous scientific articles in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy as well as in other learned journals.

Other Collections

Other important scientific collections include:

  • The monograph and offprint collections amassed by renowned entomologist Alexander H Haliday, MRIA, 1806-70

  • The entomological collections of Cynthia Longfield, 1896-1991

History of Science

The Academy continued to acquire scientific publications throughout the nineteenth century, principally by bequest, donation and exchange. These are now of value to historians of science as well as being important for the history of books and printing. The Academy also collects new publications on the history of science in Ireland.

Periodicals received on exchange

Exchange agreements were established in the past with academies and learned societies in other countries, and many scientific publications were acquired in this way. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, the early publications of the Institut de France and of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg, are among the valuable periodical holdings in the Library.

Select Bibliography

D.Thorburn Burns, ‘richard Kirwan’s library: an eighteenth-century chemists’ collection’ in Bernadette Cunningham and Siobhán Fitzpatrick (eds), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), 92-103.

Gordon L. Herries Davies, ‘Astronomy, geology, meteorology’, in T Ó Raifeartaigh (ed.), The Royal Irish Academy: a bicentennial history, 1785-1985 (Dublin, 1985), 247-73.

George Huxley, ‘On some botanical books in the library of the Royal Irish Academy’ (Library information leaflet) (1992).

George Huxley, ‘On some entomological books in the library of the Royal Irish Academy’ (Library information leaflet) (1992).

George Huxley, ‘Some astronomical books in the library of the Royal Irish Academy’ (Library information leaflet) (1991).

George Huxley, ‘Some geological books in the library of the Royal Irish Academy’ (Library information leaflet) (1991).

T.E. Nevin, ‘Experimental physics’, in T Ó Raifeartaigh (ed.), The Royal Irish Academy: a bicentennial history, 1785-1985 (Dublin, 1985), 240-6.

James P. O’Connor, ‘Natural history collections’, in Bernadette Cunningham and Siobhán Fitzpatrick (eds), Treasures of the Royal Irish Academy Library (Dublin, 2009), 104-17.

Colm Ó hEocha, ‘Biology’, in T Ó Raifeartaigh (ed.), The Royal Irish Academy: a bicentennial history, 1785-1985 (Dublin, 1985), 301-12.

Eva M. Philbin, ‘Chemistry’, in T Ó Raifeartaigh (ed.), The Royal Irish Academy: a bicentennial history, 1785-1985 (Dublin, 1985), 275-300.

T.D. Spearman, ‘Mathematics and theoretical physics’ in T Ó Raifeartaigh (ed.), The Royal Irish Academy: a bicentennial history, 1785-1985 (Dublin, 1985), 201-39.

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