The Trinity College Dublin Mathematical Society

Founded in 1923

The Trinity College Dublin Mathematical Society was founded following a meeting on 12 December 1923. This is a student Society but the initial meeting was chaired by Charles Henry Rowe in the Graduate Memorial Building. Charles Henry Rowe (1893-1943) had been born in Cork, studied for his bachelor's degree at Cork, then received his M.A. from Trinity College, Dublin in 1917. He won a fellowship of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1920 and held this until his death. In 1921 he was appointed Donegal Lecturer in Mathematics at Trinity College and after a while, the Erasmus Smith Chair of Mathematics being vacant, he was made acting professor. This was the position he held when he chaired the December 1923 meeting. Charles Henry Rowe became Erasmus Smith Professor of Mathematics at Trinity College, Dublin, in 1926. He introduced mathematical analysis in its modern sense into the Trinity College syllabus providing a rigorous approach to the differential and integral calculus.

One of the students at this inaugural meeting was Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton (1903-1995). Walton, born in Abbeyside, Dungarvan, County Waterford, won a scholarship to study mathematics and physics at Trinity College, Dublin, and began his studies there in 1922. After graduating with a Master's Degree in 1927 he studied for his doctorate in physics at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was awarded his doctorate in 1931 and remained at Cambridge until 1934 when he returned to Ireland as a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. He was appointed Erasmus Smith Professor of Natural and Experimental there in 1946. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for his work on particle-accelerators giving experimental verification of atomic structure. This work which won the Nobel Prize had been carried out at Cambridge.

Writing about the Dublin University Mathematical Society in [3], Spearman gives the following information:-
The purpose of the Society was to hold meetings at which papers on subjects of mathematical interest would be read, and to establish a library which would serve the needs of the mathematics students. The Board gave official approval to the setting up of the Society, and the Classical Society offered the use of its rooms as a reading room and library. In 1931 the Dublin University Mathematical Society moved into its own rooms in House No. 7 and later, in 1944, it moved into No. 39 to the room which it occupied until August 1991 when the Society moved, with the Department, to Westland Row. The Society meets regularly during term and hears papers from student members, from members of staff and from visiting speakers. Each session the inaugural meeting provides an opportunity to invite a distinguished mathematician to come to Dublin to lecture. The Society now owns a very fine library of mathematical books including some works of considerable historical interest as well as a comprehensive modern collection. C H Rowe, who was the first president of the Society, bequeathed his own personal library as well as an endowment which continues to provide an annual income for book purchase. M W J Fry also left his library to the Society, and annual grants from the Central Societies Committee allow for further acquisitions. As well as being a library and reading room the Society room forms a social centre for the students within the Department.
Let us give some information about M W J Fry who is referred to in the above quote [1]:-
Matthew Wyatt Joseph Fry, who died in December, 1943, at the age of eighty, was one of the oldest members of the London Mathematical Society. He was born in County Clare and received his early education in Galway Grammar School. He entered Trinity College, Dublin, in 1881 and obtained a Fellowship in 1889. Fellowship at that time was awarded on the result of a competitive examination, which did not encourage specialisation. The mathematical course covered a wide field of both pure and applied mathematics, but in order to have a chance of success a man was obliged to have a second subject. Some men took three subjects, and such combinations as mathematics, classics, and Hebrew were not uncommon. Fry took experimental science as his second subject. Shortly after obtaining his Fellowship he was appointed Tutor, and he spent much time in lecturing to engineering and other students of elementary mathematics. In Trinity College, Dublin, much of the administrative work of the college and university is done by the Fellows, and as Fry displayed great aptitude for such work he was called on to fill many executive posts. In 1910 he was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy. He retired from the Chair in 1926 when he was succeeded by his former pupil, Dr J L Synge. In 1909 he married Margaret Barker, daughter of the late Col. Sir Francis Barker. He is survived by his widow, a son and two daughters.
The 2016-17 Trinity College Dublin Mathematical Society booklet for the 94th Session of the Society, gives the following information about the Society:-
The purpose of the Society is to provide events of mathematical interest for its members. As drafted in the original constitution, the object of the Society shall be the "encouragement of the study of mathematics". The modern Trinity College Dublin Mathematical Society hosts events weekly. These range from talks - by Trinity lecturers, international speakers and students - to events of a more social nature (such as our annual Christmas party). We bring our invited speakers to Commons, Trinity's traditional evening meal before their talks, and hold a reception in our Society Room afterwards. The Society's talks provide an excellent way for students to hear about interesting mathematics they would not normally encounter, as well as to get to know people from other years and classes in college. As well as running events, we also hold problem solving classes (or the "Alice and Bob Corner" as it is lovingly called) organised by our quizmaster and send our brave mathematicians into the Irish Mathematical Intervarsities: an annual mathematics competition between Ireland's universities. We have been quite successful in this recently, holding the trophy for the past three years. We are also active participants in the annual Irish Mathematical Students Association conference, which we will be hosting this year. On top of everything else, we host a selection of libraries, holding a grand total of about 2,000 books; everything from pop-math to calculus, to problem solving to basically every other topic in between.

Visit the society website.

References (show)

  1. T S Broderick, Matthew Wyatt Joseph Fry, J. London Math. Soc. 20 (1) (1945), 57-58.
  2. The Dublin University Mathematical Society.
  3. T D Spearman, The Dublin University Mathematical Society, Department of Mathematics (Trinity College Dublin, 1992).

Last Updated February 2018