The state laboratory was established in 1924 to provide an analytical and advisory service to the government of the new Irish state. It was accommodated in the RCScI (later UCD) building, and shared key personnel with the university.
The first state chemist was Hugh Ryan, professor of chemistry at UCD, who accepted the position in 1924 despite initial reluctance caused by his anti-treaty views. Ryan’s research interests at various stages included sugar derivatives, peat and explosives. Thomas Nolan succeeded Ryan, first as state chemist and later as professor of chemistry, and was awarded the Boyle Medal by the Royal Dublin Society for his extensive work on lichens. T. S. Wheeler, Nolan’s successor as professor and an influential voice in the development of the chemical industry in Ireland, served as state chemist throughout the second world war.
The state laboratory was based in Merrion Street for almost sixty years, expanding from its origins in revenue and agriculture to cover most areas of government activity that require analytical laboratory expertise. In 1984 the laboratory moved to Abbotstown, Co. Dublin.