◀ ▲ ▶History / 19th-century / Person: O&amp;#x27;Connell, Daniel
Person: O&amp;#x27;Connell, Daniel
Daniel Joseph O'Connell was an English Jesuit priest, astronomer and seismologist who worked on eclipsing binaries and variable stars.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- O'Connell moved from Clongowes Wood College to Tullabeg, Rahan, the second school to be opened by the Society of Jesus and, in 1913, when he was seventeen years old, O'Connell entered the Society of Jesus at Tullabeg.
- One of the tasks of the Juniors was to take readings on a seismograph which was being designed and built by Father William O'Leary (1869-1939) at Rathfarnham Castle in 1915, the year O'Connell began his studies there.
- O'Leary asked O'Connell to help him and the two worked together building the seismograph.
- From this time on O'Connell was interested in seismology and did important work in that area.
- O'Connell would eventually become President of this Academy.
- O'Connell's other mathematics lecturers were Michael Egan and Henry McWeeney, a graduate of University College Dublin, who had been appointed Professor of Mathematics in 1891.
- O'Connell was awarded a B.Sc. in 1919.
- O'Connell continued his studies at St Ignatius's College at Valkenburg in the Netherlands.
- At this College, O'Connell studied philosophy but began making telescopic observations of variable stars, especially eclipsing binaries that were to become the main topic of his astronomical research.
- O'Connell taught mathematics and physics at this College for a year and then, in 1923, became assistant-director at the college's observatory.
- O'Connell worked as an assistant to Pigot until 1926, primarily working on seismology but also undertaking work in astronomy.
- In 1926 O'Connell returned to Ireland where he completed his theological studies at Milltown Park, Dublin, and was ordained on 31 July 1928.
- He had been advised to go to Harvard College Observatory by Johan Stein (1871-1951), a member of the Society of Jesus who had taught mathematics and science at St Ignatius's College at Valkenburg for 20 years, being there when O'Connell studied at St Ignatius's College in 1920-22.
- The first person O'Connell met when arriving at Harvard College Observatory was Eric Mervyn Lindsay (1907-1974) who had been born in Northern Ireland and studied at Queen's University, Belfast.
- O'Connell attended lectures by Fred Wipple (1906-2004) on photographic photometry.
- The greatest influence on O'Connell, however, was Harlow Shapley but he was also influenced by Cecilia Payne who was working on variable stars and by Bart Bok (1906-1983) who was undertaking research for his Ph.D. when O'Connell arrived.
- O'Connell attended the International Astronomical Union meeting in Harvard in 1932 and was fascinated by the discussion between Arthur Eddington and Georges Lemaître on Lemaître's expanding universe theory which Eddington did not like.
- O'Connell's health was still rather poor so his superiors at the Society of Jesus decided that they would have him return to Australia rather than assign him to a position in the British Isles.
- So O'Connell returned to the Riverview Observatory in 1933 where William O'Leary, whom he had worked with at Rathfarnham Castle, was now the director.
- On 11 January 1935 O'Connell was elected a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society.
- From then onwards Father O'Connell regularly stayed at the castle as a guest of the Astronomer Royal whenever he visited Britain.
- While in Australia O'Connell presented several radio talks, including a series of three talks with the title 'According to Hoyle' on the Australian Broadcasting Commission station 2BL-2NC, broadcast in March and April 1952.
- At the Vatican Observatory O'Connell was able to install a 24/36-inch Schmidt telescope in the Barberini Gardens in Castel Gandolfo, making this the largest of the Observatory's telescopes.
- With this telescope O'Connell and his assistants were able to make high quality direct observations and spectroscopic observations.
- O'Connell was nominated to the Council of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and on 15 January 1968 he became President of the Academy.
- O'Connell organised two Study Weeks at the Pontifical Academy on astronomy.
- O'Connell was close to the Pope but he was a leading scientist who approached his research in a purely scientific way.
- There was so much interest from leading astronomers in this Study Week, both in the meeting itself and in the Proceedings which O'Connell edited, that he was persuaded to hold another similar meeting.
- Although it was not a topic that O'Connell specialised in, nevertheless when it was suggested that Nuclei of Galaxies would be a timely topic, he agreed to organise a Study Week on that topic in 1970.
- In 1970 O'Connell retired from his position at the Vatican Observatory.
- One of the rare exceptions to this rule is provided by the late Father Daniel O'Connell ...
- The reason for the exceptional standing of Father O'Connell in the annals of astronomy is the fact that he was not only an astronomer of high repute, but also a remarkably charming and good man with a genuine interest in others rather than himself which made him one of the best known and most like members of the international astronomical community of his time.
Born 25 July 1896, Rugby, England. Died 14 October 1982, Rome, Italy.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Origin England
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive