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Irish Contributions to The Modern World

Posted by David Jones on Mar 11, 2020 11:00:00 AM
David Jones


As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, we thought it might be nice to think about some things the Irish people have done for our world…besides green beer and Irish whisky. I mean, let’s be honest—Peterson pipes and Guinness are pretty great and they do have their place, but they probably don’t have a direct impact on your daily lives.

Atomic Power

Ernest Walton was the son of a Methodist minister, born in County Waterford (nice crystal, by the way!). During the early 1930s, Walton was part of a team at Oxford University that built an apparatus that split atoms. His particle accelerator work helped usher in a new era in theoretical nuclear physics and won him a Nobel Prize.

In East Tennessee we have greatly benefited from Walton’s work, since a great deal of our power comes from nuclear plants at Sequoyah and Watts Bar. So when you turn on the lights this March 17, say go raibh maith agat (the Irish phrase for “thank you”) to him!

Color Photography

This one is near-and-dear to us here at ClearBox since we use our camera on a daily basis. Offaly County’s John Joly lent his name to a color photography system that was expensive and impractical, but groundbreaking at the time. It was the first time people were able to get a color image from a single photographic plate. Remember him when you take your St. Paddy’s Day selfie at the Honest Pint.

Bacon (as we know it)

No, the Irish didn’t “invent” bacon, but if you decided to have it this morning instead of corned beef, you have Henry Denny to thank. At one time bacon was cut into large chunks and thrown into brine to cure. In his butcher shop in Waterford, Denny sliced the bacon into thin “rashers” and used dry salt to cure it before shipping it out all over the world.


If you eat enough of Mr. Denny’s bacon, you might have need one of Dr. Pantridge’s inventions. County Down native, Frank Pantridge, developed early treatments of CPR and defibrillation, then improved on one of his own devices by creating a portable defibrillator. “Portable” might be more accurate as it weighed about 155 pounds, but in just a few short years, they got a model down to less than 7. It’s not really shocking that he was called “Father of Emergency Medicine.”

Other Stuff

Really, though, there’s a long list of things to thank the Irish for.

  • Are you into politics? They have contributed to both left (Mother Jones) and right (Edmund Burke).
  • Horrible disease. But Vincent Barry stumbled upon a cure while searching for a treatment for tuberculosis.
  • Sir James Martin invented the ejector seat in 1946.
  • Francis Rynd from Dublin came up with the hypodermic needle in 1844.
  • Flavored potato chips. Yeah, I know…funny that the Irish should come up with something involving potatoes, but before that the only flavor available was “salt.”

So now you have something original to talk about on St. Patrick’s Day when your friends have all had a few green beers and you want to blow their minds. Sure, you could bring up Patrick driving out the snakes, but everyone knows about that.



Topics: Business Development, Chattanooga, Social Media, St. Patrick's Day, Innovation

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