Identity Statement for Royal College of Science for Ireland

  • Reference code: IE UCDA RCSI
  • Title: Records of the Royal College of Science for Ireland (RCScI)
  • Dates: 1867–1929
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 7 boxes, 115 bound volumes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use
  • Allied Materials

Administrative history

The Royal College of Science for Ireland [RCScI] came into existence as a result of a Treasury decision in 1865 which converted the Museum of Irish Industry and Government School of Science applied to Mining and the Arts into the RCSI. Sir Robert Kane was its first dean (it was his work which lead to the foundation of the Museum of Economic Geology in 1845, out of which grew the Museum of Irish Industry [MII] in 1847).

The MII's teaching function was divided between the Royal Dublin Society [RDS] and the MII. A committee, representative of both institutions, was responsible for some common series of lectures. This unsatisfactory arrangement ended in large part in 1854 when a Board of Trade Minute defined the respective functions of the two institutions but did not completely cease until 1864 when the Report of the Select Committee recommended that a College of Science should be founded for Ireland. The Rosse Commission of 1866 outlined the scope and functions of the proposed college.

The minutes of the council meeting held on 11 September 1867 state that "The object of the Royal College of Science is to supply as far as practicable a Complete Course of instruction in Science applicable to the Industrial Arts, especially those which may be classed broadly under the heads of Mining, Agriculture, Engineering, and Manufactures, and to aid in the instruction of Teachers for the local Schools of Science" (RCSI/1). The heads were slightly extended later to include "Mining, Engineering, and Manufactures, and in Physics and Natural Science" (RCSI Directory for the Session 1898–99, RCSI/254). The RCSI had chairs of Mining and Mineralogy, Physics, Chemistry, Zoology, Botany, Geology, Applied Mathematics and Mechanism, Descriptive Geometry and Engineering.

Students entered the college as Associates or Non-Associates. Associates entered for the three year curriculum of the college, successful completion of which earned the Diploma of Associate of the RCSI (A.R.C.Sc.I.). Non-Associates entered for separate courses and received certificates after examination. Both the A.R.C.Sc.I. and individual certificates entitled the holders to teach science (in the case of Non-Associates, this meant that they could teach the subjects named in the certificate). Fellowships could also be awarded. Reciprocal arrangements existed between the RCScI, the University of Dublin and Queenís University, Belfast, to provide their respective graduates with credits if attending degree or associateship courses. Associateship students were admitted if over the age of sixteen and having obtained the entrance examination or an equivalent qualification. Various scholarships were offered for competition among entering students. Royal scholarships, research studentships, medals and prizes were also available. All classes were also open to women (RCSI/254).

As well as Sir Robert Kane, the staff of the college included other distinguished scientists, including Sir Robert Ball, FRS, Professor of Applied Mathematics (1867–94); Sir William Barrett, FRS, Professor of Physics (1874–1909); and Sir Walter Hartley, Professor of Chemistry (1880–1911). The associate graduates seem to have done remarkable well. Many went to work in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Egypt, Sudan and Malaya. Others worked in the British Isles as engineers, chemists, mining experts, geologists, teachers and lecturers. Women associates also succeeded in getting employment varying from the Royal Gunpowder Factory in London, to eminent positions as research scholars in European countries. However, most women became teachers.

The RCScI was administered by the Department of Science and Art until 1900 and then by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction for Ireland until 1922. It was absorbed into UCD in 1926 to form the basis of the Science Faculty—the first faculty to move to the new Belfield campus in the 1960s. The premises originally used by the RCSI were those of the former MII at 51 St Stephen's Green East. In 1897, recommendations were made for a new building, the foundation stone of which was laid in Merrion Street by King Edward VII on 28 April 1904 and the building was opened by King George V on 8 July 1911. When the RCSI was transferred to UCD, the Science Faculty remained in Merrion Street until the 1960s when it moved to Belfield.

Archival history

Only a fraction of the original body of RCScI records remain extant. Following the transfer of the college to UCD in 1926, some of the RCScI records found their way into the Main and Science Libraries in Belfield which were later deposited in UCD Archives in three deposits between 1979 and 1981. More records were transferred to UCD Archives from the Engineering library in 1982. The greatest volume of surviving RCScI records were accessioned during the course of moving part of the Engineering Faculty from Merrion Street to Earlsfort Terrace in 1982. UCD Archives is grateful to Mary Semple, Deirdre O'Connell and Una Lavelle of the UCD Library and to Vincent Comiskey of the Grounds Department for their help in locating and preserving these records.

Scope and Content

Minute books, correspondence of the Office of Register and Clerk, registers of outgoing letters, post book and Registrarís files concerning the college Council and college administration. Registers and attendance books concerning students, fellows and staff. Material concerning faculties, courses taught, examinations, library and financial administration. Includes material concerning the college's Chemical Association and Unions of College of Science Associates, photographs of staff and college buildings. Printed material includes press cuttings and college directories and calendars.

  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in microform.
  • Language: English
  • Finding aid: Descriptive list

Related Collections

The Records of the Museum of Irish Industry

Publication note

The College of Science Association. The College of Science for Ireland: Its Origin and Development, with Notes on Similar Institutions in Other Countries, and a Bibliography of the Work Publishes by the Staff and Students (19001923). Dublin: The University Press for the College of Science Association, 1923.

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