From the 15-year-old girl who became a world-famous fossil hunter to the Irish fathers of chemistry and computing, Luke O’Neill’s latest book has something for everyone.
The book is essentially a history of science told through the ‘crazy lives of some of science’s most interesting characters’.
‘To Boldly Go Where No Book Has Gone Before: A Joyous Journey Through All of Science’ features some of the most famous scientists that ever lived as well as some less well-known characters.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning, Prof O’Neill said he hoped the book would be interesting for everyone – regardless of their knowledge of science.
“If people are frightened of science and never read a science book, this is for you basically,” he said.
“I was asked by Penguin to write a brand-new history of science, which is a bit of a tall order, let's face it, but you know, I gave it a go.
“It's all of science, but it's the people; it's about the scientists.”
The book opens with Prof O’Neill’s own first encounter with the world of science.
“When I was 12 years of age, my mother gave me a chemistry set for Christmas,” he said.
“I managed to do a big experiment, but I almost exploded the whole bedroom and left a splat on the ceiling – this chemical splat.
“It’s still there. I was in the house last year and the stain is still there. That was my first experiment, trying to blow up my own bedroom. So, throughout the book, I mention my own little experiences as a scientist.”
Prof O’Neill is not the only Irishman to get a mention in the book – with the Trinity scientist determined to ensure his countrymen get the credit they deserve.
You see this book, by the way, I'm very thrilled to say, is on sale in the UK as well," he said.
“So, I wanted to remind the British how important us Irish are.”
One of those to feature is “the father of chemistry” Robert Boyle.
“He's pre-dated by a guy called Paracelsus, of course, who he refers to, but I like Boyle because he's Irish.
“He comes up with these gas laws (Boyle’s Law) and he's very much in part of the whole scientific endeavour.”
Prof O’Neill said Boyle was also something of a feminist.
“His sister was extremely important in his research and helped him a lot and he gave his sister some credit,” he said.
“But he was very annoyed because she couldn't become a member of the Royal Society, which was the big Scientific Society – women were excluded, you know?
“He gave her lots of credit for helping him in his research, but of course, many people have never heard of her.
“Catherine Boyle was her name actually and she was probably as important as him, you know. She may have had the same kind of ideas.”
The book also features the ‘Father of Computing’ George Boole.
“So, George Boole was the first professor of mathematics in UCC - It was called Queens College at the time - and he was going into the college one morning and caught a terrible cold,” he said.
“Then, his wife, in those days, they used to wrap people in wet blankets to cure a cold, they didn’t know what was causing the cold and sadly, he got pneumonia and died.
“So indirectly his wife killed him.”
To Boldly Go Where No Book Has Gone Before: A Joyous Journey Through All of Science’ is available online and in bookstores.