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UCD School of Physics

Scoil na Fisice UCD

A long tradition in research & teaching

Physics at UCD has a long and distinguished history, dating from the late nineteenth century. A brief overview of some highlights is given below, with  more to come!


Monsignor Gerald Molloy is appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy and Vice-Rector of Newman’s Foundation in St Stephen’s Green. He gained a reputation as an excellent public lecturer, whose lectures on physics and wireless telegraphy included many demonstration experiments.



Thomas Preston discovers what subsequently became known as the anomalous Zeeman effect. He was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy at UCD in 1891 and awarded the RDS Boyle Medal in 1899.



John McClelland is appointed Professor of Experimental Physics at UCD. McClelland established the Atmospheric Physics research group in the Earlsfort Terrace Laboratories.



J. Dowling is appointed as a lecturer and appears to have been the longest serving of those present at the first formal meeting of the Faculty of Science, held in 1909. He was later appointed Professor of Technical Physics and retired in 1958.



J. J. Nolan succeeds McClelland as Professor of Experimental Physics. Under the guidance of the brothers J. J. and P. J. Nolan, the Atmospheric Physics group gains international recognition as the 'Nolan School'. P. J. Nolan was appointed Professor of Geophysics in 1953 and was awarded the Boyle Medal by the RDS in 1971.



Thomas Nevin joins the Experimental Physics staff. He re-established a Spectroscopy Laboratory at UCD and subsequently started the Nuclear Emulsion Group which would evolve into the Particle Physics Group. He was appointed Head of Department in 1952.



The Experimental Physics Department is the first of the Science Departments to move to the new buildings in Belfield. The research interests of the Department are broadened to include astrophysics and plasma physics. Existing research groups in Atmospheric Physics, Molecular Spectroscopy and Particle Physics continue to thrive.

The first general meeting of the Irish branch of the Institute of Physics is held in UCD. Professor Felix Hackett, Emeritus Professor of Physics and Electrical Engineering, was the first chair.


Members of the Particle Physics Group make the first observation of the decay of a neutral charmed particle.



Thomas Nevin retires 55 years after entering UCD as an undergraduate and more than 25 years since being appointed Head of Department and Professor of Experiemental Physics. Neil Porter, Professor of Electron Physics, is appointed Head of Department. Denis Weaire, with research interests including condensed matter theory, is appointed to the Chair of Experimental Physics.



Alex Montwill is appointed Professor of Physics.



P. K. Carroll, Professor of Optical Physics, is awarded the RDS Boyle medal for his work in atomic and molecular spectroscopy.



Members of the Astrophysics Group discover ultra high energy gamma-ray emission from the Crab Nebula after a 25 year search.



Tony Scott is awarded the Kelvin Medal, for championing the cause of physics, by the Institute of Physics.



Martin Grünewald is appointed Professor of Experimental Physics and particle physics research is re-established at UCD.