History of UCD Chemistry

University College had its origin in the Catholic University of Ireland founded in Dublin in 1854 with John Henry Newman as Rector. After a chequered early history the Catholic University became University College and in 1908 was incorporated with the then Queen's Colleges at Cork and Galway into the National University. 

An appointment to a Chair of Chemistry in the Catholic University was made by Newman in 1856. However, antecedents to the present Chemistry Department include an earlier Chair of Chemistry instituted in 1796 by the Royal Dublin Society. In 1867 this became associated with the newly formed Royal College of Science and in 1926 the link with the present Department was completed when the College of Science was merged with University College. The Professor of Chemistry at that time was Hugh Ryan who had worked in Berlin with Emil Fischer and was responsible for initiating work on flavanoids which became a long-standing interest within the Department.

In the years following World War ll, it became clear that the College's city centre premises and the College of Science in Merrion Street could no longer accommodate the expansion of student numbers then taking place. In 1964 the present Science Buildings became the first group of buildings to be opened on a site on the south side of the city named after Belfield House whose grounds it incorporated. Much of the planning for the new Department was carried out by T.S. Wheeler, Professor of Chemistry from 1945-62, who died shortly before the building was completed. Wheeler's contribution to Chemistry is commemorated in a series of annual lectures.

Wheeler was succeeded as Professor of Organic Chemistry by Eva Philbin, who became responsible for the development of staff, research and equipment that took place following the move to the new building. Growth of Inorganic and Physical Chemistry ensued and in 1963 a Chair of Inorganic Chemistry was instituted with the appointment of David Brown, while in 1970 David Feakins was appointed to a Chair of Physical Chemistry. In 1979 Eva Philbin retired and the Chair of Organic Chemistry passed to Frank Hegarty. In 1988 David Feakins took early retirement following a serious illness leaving behind him a flourishing School of Physical Chemistry. His replacement by Kenneth Dawson coincided with a further period of change within the Department resulting from the retirement of more than half the staff between the years 1990 and 1996. 

The Move to Belfield

1964 The Science block is officially opened on the 24th of September by UCD President Dr. Michael Tierney and Chemistry is one of the first departments to move there.

2005 In August 2005, the UCD Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology (CSCB) building is completed and officially opened by An Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern TD in February 2006.

2011 The first completed phase of the new UCD Science Centre opens in September 2011. The refurbished Science South is given the title of Centre for Molecular Innovation and Drug Discovery.

2013 Formal official opening of the phase 2 Science refurbishment and extension UCD O’Brien Centre for Science, housing state‐of‐the‐art atrium spaces, modern learning facilities and space for interdisciplinary research

2014 Marks 50 years of Science at UCD’s Belfield campus, a stage in the College’s history where Science undergraduate education had reached an all time high in popularity among Irish students.

Based in the UCD O’Brien Centre for Science, UCD Chemistry is determined to represent the best of modern education and relevant research. Today, UCD Chemistry offers an extensive portfolio of undergraduate and graduate programmes in addition to research expertise that impacts the global scientific community, society at large and the economy.

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