Supporting the research of the staff and the constantly expanding range of science and engineering courses offered to students in Merrion Street was the library. When the RCScI library moved into its new custom-built accommodation in 1911 its collection already contained thousands of journals, maps, reports and books in English, French and German, reflecting the diversity of scientific and engineering subjects taught in the college. Amongst the major treasures on display in the library was a letter from the great French chemist Antoine Lavoisier inviting fellow chemist Jacques Charles to attend an experiment concerning the composition of water, staged before an audience of scientific notables to win support for Lavoisier’s ground-breaking new theories of chemistry. Lavoisier went to the guillotine
in 1794.

Over the years the collections expanded, supporting new courses and the study needs of an increasing number of students. By the end of the 1950s the need to optimise the reading space in the Merrion Street library was so acute that the old study desks, with their green reading lamps, were replaced by utilitarian tables – despite much opposition from staff and students.
In 1989, when the last UCD staff and students moved from Merrion Street to Belfield, the library’s collections were amalgamated with the other UCD library material. In recent years, the collections that once comprised the RCScI library have been identified as a significant and unique research resource for the study of the history of science and applied science in Ireland. They are one of the focused research themes of UCD’s Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive.

Above left: Woodcut from Georg Agricola’s De re Metallica (1621), one of the important works in the RCScI library
Above right: Letter from Antoine Lavoisier to Jacques Charles

Above: In the library