UCC People

The inventor of Boolean logic (foundation of the Digital Age) and first Professor of Mathematics, QCC, 1849-1864

George Boole was born in Lincoln, England. From the age of two he showed extraordinary talent and by 19 he was running his own school.

Almost entirely self taught, Boole is best known for his invention of Boolean Algebra in 1854. This work forms the basis of modern high-speed computing.

George Boole met his premature death through pneumonia after walking to UCC in a December rainstorm from his home in Ballintemple. He is buried in Blackrock, Cork. After his death his many admirers commissioned a magnificent stained glass window to commemorate him, in UCC’s Aula Maxima.

The Boole Library in UCC holds a very extensive and important collection of his letters, manuscripts, books and papers.

Mary MacSwiney (1872-1942) was a noted republican, feminist, and educator.   Raised in Cork city, she received a Bachelor in Arts from UCC in 1912 and served on the university governing body from 1919 to 1922.

A charismatic school teacher associated with Cork’s small advanced nationalist community prior to 1916, MacSwiney was also an active suffragist and founding member of the non-militant Munster Women’s Franchise League. During the revolutionary period (1916-23) she became a national leader of the women’s republican organisation Cumann na mBan, a Sinn Féin TD (elected for Cork city in 1921), and a spokesperson for her brother Terence during his galvanizing hunger strike in 1920.

She subsequently undertook a highly successful speaking tour of the United States on behalf of the independence movement. MacSwiney forcefully opposed the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and maintained an uncompromising republican position even after she lost her Dáil seat in 1927. By that time, she had established the highly-regarded progressive girls’ school, Scoil Íte in Cork, which she operated until her death in 1942.

Friends and foes alike regarded Mary MacSwiney as one of the outstanding orators of the period. The Cork University Record recalled in her obituary, ‘To hear Miss MacSwiney speak from a platform for perhaps a full hour with not a note in her hand, yet without the least hitch in her argument, without a single carelessly fashioned sentence or a slurred syllable, was an experience one did not forget.’

President of UCC (1943-1954)

Alfred O’Rahilly (1884-1969) was Professor of Mathematical Physics (1917-1943) and Registrar (1920-1943) and was the dominant college figure from 1920 to 1954. Prolific scholar, polymath, controversialist and public figure, his UCC initiatives included improvements in the library of which he was the effective director, the institution of student health and restaurant services, and the acquisition of the extensive former County Gaol site which made significant building expansion possible. Other innovations included the foundation of the Department of Electrical Engineering, and of Cork University Press.

O’Rahilly strengthened College links with the city and the province, particularly in pioneering adult education courses. He vigorously promoted a Roman Catholic ethos in the college, and was ordained a priest after his retirement.

The first woman in Ireland and Great Britain to hold the position of Professor.

Mary Ryan was appointed Professor of Romance Languages at University College Cork in 1909. She was the first woman in Ireland and Great Britain to hold the position of Professor.

The social and religious conventions of her day strongly discouraged women from attending university. Undaunted, she matriculated at Queen’s College Cork and received her BA in 1895 having never set foot in a lecture hall, attending only for examinations.

During her thirty years as Professor in UCC, Mary Ryan not only taught generations of undergraduate students, but won a formidable reputation for sending her postgraduate students to the Sorbonne. She was awarded a DLitt for her published work and had bestowed upon her the highest honour of the French Republic, the Legion of Honour.

UCC’s College of Arts, Celtic Studies & Social Sciences (CACSSS) continues her legacy by the annual award of Mary Ryan Scholarships to undergraduate students of languages.

President of QCC 1904-1908, and UCC 1908-1919

Born in England, Bertram Alan Coghill Windle (1858-1929) was educated at Trinity College Dublin and became Professor of Anatomy at Birmingham. As President of Queen’s College Cork he presided over its transformation into UCC in 1908-1909. A productive and versatile scholar, he held at different times the chairs of Anatomy and Archaeology. Under his Presidency student numbers expanded considerably and new departments and courses were instituted. The Dental School and a Physics and Chemistry building were opened, and new facilities included the Athletic Grounds at the Mardyke. After his resignation as President, Windle pursued a further career at the University of Toronto as Professor of Philosophy.

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