Arthur W. Conway - President: 1940-1947
Born in Wexford in 1875, Dr Conway was educated at St Peter’s College in Summerhill before proceeding to University College in 1892. Having received his BA Degree in 1896 with honours in Latin, English, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, he completed his MA degree with highest honours in Mathematics.
Dr Conway completed his education at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he became a University Scholar in 1901. Moving back to University College, he was appointed Professor of Mathematical Physics in 1901 and held the Chair until the establishment of UCD in 1909. Dr Conway served as Registrar of the university throughout the presidency of Dr Denis J. Coffey, whom he succeeded in 1940.
According to Sir Edmund Whittaker FRS, Dr Conway was “the most distinguished Irish Catholic man of science of his generation”, and in relation to the study of quaternions (a non-commutative number system that extends the complex numbers and find uses in both theoretical and applied mathematics, in particular for calculations involving three-dimensional rotations), students regarded him as “the greatest authority on the subject”.
On assuming the presidency of UCD, Dr Conway confronted a growing financial crisis in the university, which was exacerbated by the Second World War. He referred on one occasion to “a state of grim and unrelieved penury”. Despite the difficulties and distractions of the war years, Dr Conway continued to promote research and publication as a priority for the academic staff. Another of his prime concerns was the rise in student numbers from 2,400 at the start of the war to 3,300 at its conclusion, which left the university very limited in terms of space and resources. To address these challenges Dr Conway appointed the Statutory Officers’ Committee, whose Report defined the principles of planning which the College should follow.
Dr Conway presided at his last Governing Body meeting in June 1947 and retired on 2 October that year.