10 Things the Irish Are Not So Famous for but Should Be

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What do the ejector seat, the emergency defibrillator, and the C-section have in common? They were all invented by the Irish. 

Sure, we invented Guinness and are celebrated for our saints and scholars, as well as our Joyce and Yeats. But what most people don’t know is the Irish are also behind some of the greatest innovations and accomplishments the world has ever seen. Here are a few of them:

Ernest Walton – Ushered in the Nuclear Age

An Irish-born physicist who won a Nobel Prize for his work on ‘atom-smashing’, Ernest Walton was the first person in history to artificially split the atom.  

Carmel Snow – Move Over, Dior and Channel

Not many people realize it but some of the most substantial contributions to the world of high fashion were made by an Irish woman. Carmel Snow was editor-in-chief and the driving force behind the most influential fashion magazine, Harper’s Bazaar.

James Hoban – The Architect of the White House

Like the look of the White House? Then thank James Hoban, an 18th-century Irish architect from Kilkenny who designed the home of American presidents. 

Dorothy Price – Saved Ireland From Tuberculosis

This Irish physician played a major role in eradicating tuberculosis from Ireland by pressuring the Irish government, in 1948, to introduce testing and BCG vaccinations. Price’s relentless campaign is astonishing when considered in context, for this was during the Catholic Church’s reign and rampant misogyny in the medical community.

Dr. William Brooke O’Shaughnessy – No More Cholera

Throughout the 19th century, cholera stalked Europe like a plague. Thanks to Dr. William Brooke O’Shaughnessy and his early research in intravenous therapy, the disease has been eradicated from the developed world. 

Lady Mary Heath – Ever landed in the middle of a soccer field?

The first person to fly 9,000 miles solo (which took over three months in an open cockpit airplane) was the Irish woman, Lady Mary Heath. She was also the first woman to parachute from an airplane, landing in the middle of a soccer game (a sport restricted to men at the time). Lady Heath was also the first woman to receive a US mechanic’s qualification. 

John Tyndall – Mom, why is the sky blue? 

Ask an Irishman. In the 19th century, the physicist John Tyndall spent nine years studying radiant energy and the behavior of molecules. His findings helped demystify the Earth’s atmosphere, and provided an answer to that persistent childhood question: why is the sky blue?

Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli – Digital computing for all 

Kay McNulty Mauchly Antonelli is an unsung hero of the digital age. This Irish woman from Donegal is credited as one of the original programmers of the first general-purpose electronic digital computer, the ENIAC. It was not until years later that she and her female colleagues were hailed for their pioneering work in digital computing.

Hans Sloane – Who doesn’t love chocolate milk?

Next time you’re having a warm cup of hot cocoa, raise that cup to Hans Sloane, the 18th-century Irish physician, naturalist, and collector who discovered cacao in Jamaica and concocted his own recipe for drinking hot chocolate. 

Jocelyn Bell Burnell – Discovered ‘the most useful stars in the universe’ 

“One of the most significant scientific achievements of the 20th century.” That’s how the BBC described Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s discovery of pulsars, which have become ‘a new tool for solving many mysteries of the cosmos’.

 

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Julie
After moving to San Francisco twice in three years (long story), Julie is ecstatic to finally call San Francisco home. With a background in marketing, behavioral economics HR, and project management, Julie led project management and international relations for a language school for a number of years before establishing her own cultural agency company, which subsequently became one of Europe’s largest and most successful agencies. Excited by everything San Francisco Bay Area has to offer (except black widows) and armed with a particular passion for social impact, it seems Julie has settled in the right place!

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