|History of the School of Theoretical Physics
Formation of the School (from the 50 Year Report)
Shortly after Eamon de Valera became Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland), he began to investigate the possibility of setting up an institute of higher learning. Being a mathematician himself, he was acutely aware of the state of deterioration of Dunsink Observatory where Sir William Rowan Hamilton, regarded as Ireland's most eminent mathematician, had served as Astronomer Royal. Following discussions with his former professor, Professor Thrift, Provost of Trinity College and a successor of Hamilton's at Dunsink, and with Professor Whittaker, former Astronomer Royal, he concluded that something should be done to revive astronomical activity at the Observatory, and that an institute of higher learning, based on the Princeton model, should be established.
By 1935 the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton had three Schools: Mathematics, Humanistic Studies, and Economics and Politics, with Albert Einstein as the first Professor of the School of Mathematics. As De Valera's primary focus was on Mathematics (he favoured a federation which would embrace Irish learning and medical research) he requested Whittaker to make contact with Schrödinger as Max Born and Einstein were unavailable. Whittaker reported back to De Valera on 25 March 1938 that Schrödinger would like to accept an invitation from the Taoiseach to come to Dublin and that Von Laue was unavailable, although Heitler should be considered.
De Valera then formulated his concept for a School of Theoretical Physics which might have Conway, Whittaker and Schrödinger as Professors, and he instructed his secretary, Maurice Moynihan to:
1. ascertain from the Department of Justice whether any difficulty would arise in regard to the admission of Dr. Schrödinger to the country;
2. prepare a draft letter to Schrödinger;
3. study a pamphlet on the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey;
4. discuss the situation with Mr. O'Neill, Secretary of the Department of Education; and
5. ask Professor Whittaker to prepare a scheme for a School of Theoretical Physics.
On 16 September 1938, Schrödinger accepted a provisional offer of a professorship in the Institute and on 19 November 1938 he visited Dublin to attend a luncheon in the Taoiseach's room in Leinster House along with Professors Thrift and McConnell (Trinity College), Professor Conway (University College Dublin), the Minister for Education, T. O'Derrig, Mr. J. P. Walsh (External Affairs) and his own secretary, Maurice Moynihan. During the lunch De Valera outlined his plan for an Institute for Advanced Studies embracing a School of Celtic Learning, a School of Theoretical Physics, and a School of Medical Research, with possible additional sections to be added on later.
After lunch Moynihan arranged for Schrödinger to have an hour-long interview with Mr. Duff, Department of Justice, regarding the admission to Ireland of his wife and a third party, Frau Märch. Schrödinger left Ireland, having met again with the Taoiseach and having been assured that if he (Schrödinger) had any difficulty he was to call him (De Valera). As Frau Märch had a family, it was unusual (to say the least) that Schrödinger did not anticipate that there would be difficulties associated with her visa. Schrödinger did not trouble De Valera with his own or his wife's visa - "But in the case of our friend, Frau Heldegrund Märch from Innsbruck, you advised me, Sir, to apply to yourself."
"Mrs. Märch is holding an ordinary (non Jewish) German (not ex-Austrian) passport. She does, of course, not intend to go in for any work of any kind and I take personal responsibility for her entertainment as well as for her never causing any trouble to you, Sir, or your country."
The Taoiseach gave formal approval on 29 March 1939 to a memorandum on the Institute with reservations about a single Governing Body. The model for the School for Theoretical Physics included provision for professors, visiting professors, lecturers and students, including students from abroad. Professors would be expected to deliver every year six public lectures 'of not less than one hour duration'. De Valera suggested that one of the professors should have the title of Director and saw the first holder of this office as being 'naturally' Professor Conway. Conway was not in favour of public lectures and wrote: "A public lecture on a subject of research would probably be understood in a small centre like Dublin by perhaps two people."
The debate in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) on the Institute was lively and the opposition to establishing a School of Theoretical Physics was such that it prompted Schrödinger to suggest to De Valera that ... "I cannot shut my eyes to the possibility that - in the way of compromise between the champions and opponents - the bill may be passed with the amendment of dropping the Institute of Theoretical Physics."
De Valera assuaged Schrödinger's fears and informed him that there was every likelihood of getting the legislation enacted before Christmas, and the Institute in operation by January 1940, and as a riposte to Mulcahy's comments, which had prompted Schrödinger's chagrin, he stated:
"There are people who are available as professors or fellows, or whatever name we wish to give them in that school. I do not want to go into the matter now, because it is only when we have the bill before us, and the scheme completely copperfastened, so to speak, that we will be in a position to mention names. But I know that we will be able to get three men of world reputation in that particular branch to start with. I venture to say that, when it is established, from the point of view of the eminence of the people in it, there will be no school in the world which can say it has better direction or better material than will be in the theoretical school. "
The outbreak of war on 3 September 1939 secured Schrödinger's prompt passage to Ireland, and on 5 October 1939 he arrived in Dublin. As it now looked as if some months would elapse before the Institute could be formally established, De Valera arranged for Schrödinger to be engaged in a course of lectures in UCD under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA). By February of 1940 Schrödinger approached De Valera regarding a full-time position he had been offered in India, but by this time De Valera was able to assure him that the Bill for the establishment of the Institute would be passed before the summer recess and that if there was any unforeseen delay, he could arrange for the extension of the Academy Professorship. Schrödinger agreed to stay, but Sir Edmund Whittaker, De Valera's former teacher, felt that Edinburgh at war had first call on his services, and with Conway's accession to the Presidency of UCD, it was left to Schrödinger - who had previously stated that he was "a rather unpractical man, not skillful in that sort of planning....., not sufficiently acquainted with local imponderables which are all important to such an undertaking" - to become the School's first Director.
The Institute for Advanced Studies Act, which was signed by President Douglas Hyde on 19 June 1940, enabled the Government to set up Constituent Schools in the Institute by Establishment Order laying down the scope of their activities. As De Valera himself put it:
"They (the schools) will be devoted solely to the advance of learning and the establishment of the reputation of our country as a centre of learning which will bring students of the postgraduate type from abroad."
Before the legislation was enacted, the Irish Times, in an editorial entitled 'Irish Culture', stated:
"We welcome the Bill, not for itself alone, but the evidence which it contains that this country is leaving behind at last its parochialism, its suspicions and its petty jealousies; that instead of prattling childishly any longer about imagined slights and ill-treatments, it intends to take its entitled place as a free adult among neighbour nations!"
When the legislation was enacted the Irish Press, in an editorial entitled "Scholarship", stated:
"Today we have a mature Government determined to revive our country's ancient reputation for culture, and ready to encourage scholarship wherever it exists in our midst. The leeway to be made up is, it is true, enormous, and many a year will pass before the seeds which are now being sown yield their full harvest. But a glorious beginning has been made. The Institute for Advanced Studies can hardly fail in time to produce results which will redound to the honour of the nation!"
The Governing Board of the School had its first meeting in the Minister's room, 1 Hume Street, on Thursday 21 November 1940 at 4:15 pm. The Taoiseach welcomed the members on behalf of the President and the Government. The first item on the agenda was a proposal by the Chairman of the Board, Dr. Conway, "that Professor Erwin Schrödinger, M.A., Ph. D., D. Sc., be appointed Director of the School of Theoretical Physics", which was seconded by Professor A. J. McConnell and carried unanimously. At the same meeting it was decided that a position as Junior Professor be offered to Dr. Heitler.
Early Years (by Professor J. R. McConnell†)
1. Lectures and Seminars.
The School of Theoretical Physics initially consisted of one member, Professor Erwin Schrödinger, and he moved into 65 Merrion Square in February 1941, the premises at 64 and 65 having been rented from the Board of Public Works for the two constituent Schools (Celtic Studies and Theoretical Physics) and the administrative staff of the Institute. Immediately on his appointment as Senior Professor Schrödinger commenced to give two courses on quantum theory under the auspices of the Institute. By courtesy of the Royal Irish Academy, these courses were given in Academy House until the Merrion Square premises were ready for occupation.
Up to this time no courses were available in Ireland and very few were available in Great Britain on quantum theory. Schrödinger's courses were at two levels. The lower level included introductory wave mechanics, theory of perturbation of quantum mechanical systems, spin of the electron and Dirac's relativistic wave equation. They were attended by senior university students and by research scholars of the School. The higher level, called seminars, provided an introduction to research that was being performed in the School; for example, a course on Einstein's general theory of relativity was given preparatory to an exposition of Schrödinger's unitary field theory.
Heitler arrived in June 1941 to take up the post of Assistant Professor. Some time later he gave a lower level course designed to introduce students of chemistry and physics into the quantum theory of the chemical bond, of which he was the joint author with F. London. These lectures were subsequently published in book form. At a higher level, Heitler conducted seminars on something that was very new, namely, the meson theory of nuclear forces. Then, in further seminars, he applied this meson theory to the formulation of a theory of cosmic rays based on the supposition, then commonly accepted, that the particles now called muons are the carriers of nuclear forces.
These lectures and seminars served several useful purposes:
a. they brought together members of teaching staffs of third-level educational establishments in the Dublin area, which at the time meant University College, Trinity College, and Maynooth;
b. they initiated the teaching staffs into twentieth century theoretical physics;
c. they set an example of combining research and teaching commitments.
It should perhaps be recalled that one of the objectives that De Valera had in mind when he founded the Institute was to provide a meeting place for scholars from University College and Trinity College. Indeed, for reasons both historical and religious, the academic contacts between the two institutions had previously been almost non-existent. When Schrödinger and Heitler arrived, most of the members of the mathematical departments and individuals from other departments grasped the opportunity to hear their lectures. Within a few years the knowledge so acquired began to filter down to undergraduate university courses.
While Irish universities in the 1930's had a good research tradition in the experimental sciences, this was not generally so in the theoretical sciences. There were of course, notable exceptions. Moreover, when a good student had completed his normal studies and wished to proceed further, he was usually encouraged to go abroad. This might well have been in the best interests of the student, but it militated against the formation of research groups in the theoretical sciences. The School of Theoretical Physics helped to change that situation by training researchers who were subsequently appointed to university staffs, and also by providing a place where members of the universities could come to work, use the library facilities and consult the staff of the School.
During the early years of the Institute communications with Great Britain and North America were difficult and communications with continental Europe were wellnigh impossible. A major attempt to combat the isolation of the School was made in 1942 by holding the first colloquium which lasted from 16th. to 29th. July. The speakers from abroad were P. A. M. Dirac, who delivered five lectures on Quantum Electrodynamics, and A. S. Eddington, who gave the same number of lectures on Unification of Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory. These two sets of lectures were published as Numbers 1 and 2 of the Communications of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Series A.
In the following year a colloquium on crystals was held, the chief speakers being Max Born, P. P. Ewald and Kathleen Lonsdale, and in 1945 a colloquium on topics ranging from quantum electrodynamics to the theory of solids was held, with P. A. M. Dirac, Max Born and L. Jánossy as the main speakers. Thus already during World War II, Irish scientists were able to establish personal contact with some of the leading figures of twentieth century physics. Then, in March 1946, W. Pauli visited the School for two weeks and normal contacts were gradually resumed, but the school colloquia were still frequently held.
3. Statutory Public Lectures
In the Establishment Order of the School of Theoretical Physics it is laid down that one or more public lectures on subjects or branches of knowledge in respect of which study is being carried on in the School shall be provided for delivery in alternate years at University College Dublin and Trinity College Dublin. When this regulation was being drafted, A. W. Conway expressed the view that the preparation of a public lecture by a research scientist could be very time consuming. Fortunately, Schrödinger and Heitler were not narrow specialists and could draw on their wide reading to present in intelligible form results of modern science.
Of the statutory lectures given in the early 1940's those that made the greatest impresssion on the public was the series of four lectures delivered at Trinity College Dublin in 1943 entitled "What is Life?". These dealt with the physical aspects of the living cells and especially with the bearing of quantum theory on the structure of chromosomes and the nature of mutation. The audience totalled nearly 400, and to accommodate them each lecture had to be repeated. The lectures were published and were subsequently translated into German, French, Swedish, Japanese, Italian and Russian.
The years 1948-1970 (by Professor T. C. Dorlas)
In the years up to 1948 research in the School had concentrated on two main areas: nonlinear field theory, and meson theory. Nonlinear field theory is an attempt to unify the electromagnetic field and the gravitational field. Schrödinger found a unified theory including also the meson field using a so-called affine connection, which, although aesthetically pleasing, did not turn out to be correct. Heitler had arrived in 1941 as Assistant Professor. He started work on the theory of mesons, which were at the time assumed to be the fundamental particles of the strong nuclear interaction. He formulated a theory of radiation damping for meson fields and applied this to elementary processes occurring in cosmic radiation as it traverses the Earth's atmosphere.
On 24 July 1945 Walter Heitler was appointed Senior Professor, and he took over the Directorship on 14 December. Hwan-Wu Peng became Assistant Professor on 4 July 1945. There were many distinguished visitors, notably, Paul Dirac (Cambridge), Max Born (Edinburgh), Arthur Eddington (Edinburgh) , Wolfgang Pauli (Princeton), Lon Rosenfeld (Utrecht), James Chadwick (Liverpool), P.M. Blackett (Manchester), Neville Mott (Bristol), Rudolf Peierls (Birmingham), Laurent Schwartz (Paris).
Then, in 1948, John Lighton Synge was appointed Senior Professor. He was already an expert on general relativity but had a wide interest in various areas of classical physics and geometry. This brought the number of Senior Professors up to the intended number of three, but Heitler left the School on 1 October 1949 to take up a position as Professor at the ETH, Zürich, and Schrödinger took on the role of Director again. Heitler would maintain a strong connection with the School. He often came to Dublin for visits and some Scholars came to visit him for collaboration, in particular one of the future Senior Professors in the School, Lochlainn O' Raifeartaigh. He thus still exercised a strong influence on the School and this maintained the expertise in the School in the field of Particle Physics. This expertise was reinforced by the appointment of Ernesto Corinaldesi as Assistant Professor. He stayed only for a year and a half, however, and the appointment of his successor, Yasushi Takahashi, took until 1958 due to illness. This was a very good appointment, and he was promoted to Professor in 1960. At that time O' Raifeartaigh became Assistant Professor.
The arrival of Synge brought a new direction and dynamism to the School. Though his main interest was in general relativity and geometry, he had a broad interest in all fields of classical physics and researched a wide range of phenomena. Schrödinger resumed his opposition to the current interpretation of quantum mechanics in two papers in 1952.
In 1954 Cornelius Lanczos was appointed as Senior Professor after having been visiting professor the previous two years. His interests were in numerical analysis, which was of growing importance because of the development of the computer, and general relativity. This reinforced the reputation of the School in the field of general relativity and a large number of Scholars were inspired by this. Like Synge, Lanczos was also a very good public lecturer and gave several Statutory Public Lectures under titles such as: "Einstein, his life and work", "Adventures in Space" and "Science and Understanding".
There was now again the full complement of three Senior Professors in the School as initially intended, but in 1955 Schrödinger announced that he wished to resign from his position at the Institute for reasons of ill health.
Former Scholars of the School who got a position at one of the Dublin universities were given the opportunity to be Scholar without stipend. In 1953 it was decided to change their title to Assistant with an annual appointment, which was changed to Research Assistant in 1954 with triannual appointment. They were given formal rights of a desk in the Institute and access to the library.
In 1957 a plaque was designed to be placed at Broome Bridge (already renamed Hamilton Bridge, but this name still hasn't stuck) to commemorate Hamilton, who was the inspiration for the Institute. The Institute has always been keen to look after its heritage, and when the birthplace of Hamilton in Dominick Street was due to be demolished, the Board made sure that photographs of the house were obtained and the existing plaque was put in custody until it could be re-erected. It similarly made sure that a plaque was affixed to the wall of No. 65 Merrion Square in memory of the late Professor Schrödinger after the move to Burlington Road in 1971.
In January 1961 news came that Schrödinger had died. The Governing Board solemnly adopted the following motion proposed by Professor Synge:
"that the Governing Board of the School of Theoretical Physics records with sorrow the death of Professor Erwin Schrödinger on 4th January 1961 and extends deepest sympathy to his widow. The debt of the School to Professor Schrödinger is very great, not only on account of the enhancement of its prestige through the presence for 16 years of one of the great theoretical physicists of the age, but also by reason of his warm personal interest in the development of the School and his inspiring example as a man of imagination, energy and intellectual honesty."
The 60s were years of modest expansion. The budget increased steadily. The Estimate for the financial year 1960-61 was £14,843; this rose to £22,500 for the year 1965-66 and for 1969-70 it had risen to £29,200. The computer became more prominent as a useful tool and the Board made a provision of £10,000 in its Estimate for 1963-64 for the purchase of a computer. This was not accepted by the Department, which suggested as an alternative that an agreement could be made with Trinity College for the use of their computing facilities. In January 1963 a fee of £30 a week was agreed for 10 hours of computing time per week. The Board pointed out, however, "...that this arrangement (made for one year only) would not give us a permanent guarantee of time, and we strongly urge that such permanent guarantee be secured by (a) entering into agreement to pay £600 annually for a period of years, or (b) making a capital payment." In the end, this arrangement turned out to be very satisfactory, so when the following year the possibility was raised of using the International Computers and Tabulators Centre instead, Professor Lanzcos wrote a memorandum saying that "the help offered in this respect by the well-trained scientific staff of Trinity College, in particular Dr. J. G. Byrne, the Director of the Computing Unit, is most welcome because it relieves the staff of the Institute of a responsibility which would require a great deal of time and effort on their part." He also stated that the ICTC did not have a scientific section available, and that even if it were, it would be unlikely to operate under such favourable circumstances as in the agreement with Trinity College. In 1965 the agreement was extended to the School of Cosmic Physics.
Plans were also being made for a new building to house the School of Theoretical Physics at 9-10 Burlington Road. Initial plans were prepared by the Office of Public Works in 1963. But in April 1966 it transpired that still no provision had been made in the 1966-67 Estimates for work to commence on the new building. In September the Council therefore made a representation to the Minister for Education to start the erection of the new building at an early date. In the mean time, permission was sought for using the part of the premises at 64-5 Merrion Square vacated by the Department of Finance. The OPW then suggested a temporary move to Ansley House which was rejected by the Board on the grounds that two moves would be too disruptive to the work of the School. Finally, in June 1967, the Department of Education advised the Registrar that £40,000 had been provided for the new building in the current financial year. It remained for OPW to put the work to tender. The sum was part of an original total estimate of £65,000, but this had to be revised to between £90,000 and £100,000. Final plans for the building were completed by February 1969. It was put to tender in June 1969. After further revisions to the plan were approved in December, work was started, and in May 1971 the first Schedule for the allocation of rooms was discussed by the Board. At the end of 1971 the removal of the School was almost completed.
On the personnel front the 60s were also a time of progress. In 1963 Lochlainn O'Raifeartaigh was promoted to the pensionable post of Professor. He then requested permission to spend a two-year unpaid sabbatical as Visiting Associate Professor at Syracuse University (NY) from September 1964 until June 1966, which was granted and subsequently extended, by one year in the first instance and eventually by two years until September 1968. Meanwhile, preparations were under way to replace Professor Lanczos, who was due to retire in February 1968. In July 1964 the Chairman wrote to the Minister for Education with a proposal for the creation of a third permanent post as Professor. This was supposed to be a temporary arrangement in order to be able to attract a suitable candidate for the Senior Professor position. It was hoped that this person, when in place, would find that the amenities offered for scholarly activity in the School would offset the inequality in salaries between Dublin and elsewhere. This proposal was put on the long finger by the Government on the grounds that a report was due by the Commission on Higher Education. Eventually, in June 1967, the Department approved a proposal that the establishment of the School for the 5-6 years following Professor Lanczos' retirement would be: 3 Senior Professors, an Assistant Professor and a Visiting Professor. The Board then proposed to advertise the Senior Professorships in contrast with established procedure, but this was rejected by the Council. Rev. Professor J. R. McConnell was appointed in February 1968 and Professor O'Raifeartaigh on 1 October 1968, bringing the complement of Senior Professors back to three. Professor Lanczos was appointed Professor Emeritus of the School. In July 1968, Takahashi resigned his position as Professor to take up a position in Edmonton. He returned as a visiting professor in 1971 and several times there after.
In June 1969 the Board took steps to obtain approval for a fourth Senior Professorship but this was refused by the Department. After almost 13 years as Director, Professor Synge resigned his directorship in January 1969 and was replaced by Rev. Professor McConnell.
In January 1967 the Board considered a Government proposal for the establishment of a National Research Council. The Board welcomed this in principle but commented
1. that the Council should be concerned with the whole range of science, pure and applied and that, although pure research is usually only a small fraction of a programme of research, it should be adequately funded;
2. that the organisation of the Council should be as simple as possible in order not to consume too much time and energy of active scientists, and that its role should be to support rather than direct research programmes;
3. that the proposed organisation is unwieldy and should be reduced to at most 14 members, and need not necessarily use up a "scientist of outstanding merit" to head it, though it should be a scientist with experience in research and scientific administration.
By 1968 it was felt that the title of the position of Technical Assistant, which had been created in 1945 upon recommendation by a Committee set up to resolve a dispute between the Registrar and the Director (Professor Schrödinger), needed to be changed. After several alternatives were suggested, the title of Secretary and Assistant Librarian was finally adopted by the Board, with a similar change of title in the School of Celtic Studies. This was subject to approval by the Department of Education, however, and this does not seem to have been forthcoming.
In January 1969 a new element was added to the work of the School. In recognition of the fact that their heavy teaching load prevented university staff to do research, the School agreed to give courses of lectures for advanced students, hoping that this offer would be taken up jointly by the different universities.
Research and Seminars
Research during the period 1948-70 covered an astonishing variety of fields and thus more than satisfied the original remit of the School as laid down in the Establishment Act of the Institute: "the investigation of the mathematical principles of natural philosophy and the application of those principles to the physical and chemical group of sciences and to geophysics and cosmology". Interestingly, many of the Scholars did independent research on topics quite far removed from the main interests of the Professors. It is obviously impossible to do justice to 20 years of research here, but to give an impression of the wide range of subjects investigated, these are some of the main topics of research:
Professor Schrödinger did research on unified field theory, in particular with affine geometry. He also considered the fundamentals of Probability and applications of probability to cosmic ray counting.
Professor Synge's main lines of work were in general relativity and classical physics, but he also worked on various other topics. He studied the hypercircle method in function space, the instability of the tippe-top, the Fourier transform method for elastic waves in a medium, the flow of energy for waves in an anisotropic material, the theory of measuring gravitational fields, gravitational effects for signals travelling to and from satellites and the spectral shift of gamma rays, the gravitational field of a steadily rotating body (with P. Florides) and the gravitational field of the Sun, and Newtonian hydrodynamics of a rotating fluid with applications to ocean waves on beaches.
Professor Lanczos worked in two main areas: general relativity and numerical analysis. He investigated conservation laws in general relativity, systems of orthogonal functions for non-hermitian problems. He obtained upper and lower bounds for energy levels of excited states and developed a method for approximating the gamma function with uniformly small errors. He also analysed high-frequency undulations in the metric in general relativity and considered noise in Fourier data, determining the cut-off point of a Fourier series required for a given accuracy.
Professor J. R. McConnell worked on the self-energy of particles with integral spin and representations of Lie groups.
Professor O' Raifeartaigh worked on the S-matrix in nonlocal field theory, the problem of measuring the field strength of quantized fields using test particles, and representations of semisimple Lie groups. His most celebrated work was done on leave in Syracuse University. This concerned the question of combining Lorentz invariance and internal symmetries of elementary particles. He also worked on mass-splitting theorems and the hadron current algebra.
Professor Takahashi studied divergences in nonlocal field theory and a general theory of the invariant S-matrix. He proposed a method to relate strong and weak interactions and proposed a number of relations. He studied generalised statistics of particles and introduced a Hamiltonian formalism for quantising a system with a linear constraint. In 1965 he investigated the question of generalised conservation laws using a generalised Ward identity, now called the Ward-Takahashi identity.
Some notable work by Scholars:
W. Thirring applied the new theory of quantum electrodynamics due to Schwinger, Feynman and Tomonaga to pair creation by mesons and to Compton scattering.
H. F. Sandham worked on elliptic and hypergeometric functions and deduced results in number theory and the summation of series.
B. K. P. Scaife developed the theory of dielectric polarisation.
W. Israel investigated the speed of propagation of shock waves in a relativistic gas.
P. S. Florides calculated the gravitational field of the Earth to order 10 -16 and developed methods for approximating the gravitational field of a body of any shape at rest or in steady rotation.
K. S. Viswanathan studied a spherical magnetosphere model and derived an expression for the energy flux of a collision-free plasma.
There were seminars on a huge range of topics. The Easter and Christmas Symposium became a regular feature. Lecturers and students from Irish universities were supported financially to attend. There were many eminent visitors, who were occasionally invited to give the Statutory Public Lecture. Visitors of note were for example: W. Heitler (Zurich), H. S. Green (Adelaide), H. S. M. Coxeter (Toronto), A. Lichnerowicz (Paris), R. E. Peierls (Birmingham). L. Schwartz (Paris), M. Riesz (Lund), H. Froehlich (Liverpool), W. Kohn (London), F. A. E. Pirani (London), W. Thirring (Vienna), S. Mandelstam (Birmingham), ter Haar (Oxford) and L. Rosenfeld (Utrecht and Nordita).
Later Years (by Professor T. C. Dorlas)
In December 1971 Professor McConnell tendered his resignation as Director of the School and he was succeeded by Professor O'Raifeartaigh in January 1972. In the mean time preparations were in train for the filling of the Senior Professorship held by Professor Synge, who was due to retire in March. Interviews were held and the name of Dr. John Trevor Lewis was recommended for appointment no later than 1 October 1972. He had in fact been a regular speaker at the Symposia since 1962.
Professor Synge was appointed Professor Emeritus. After his retirement he remained active for a long time and maintained very strong links with the Institute, coming in regularly for discussions, in particular with Professor Lewis, even up to very advanced age.
In December 1972 various amendments to the Act were considered. This was inspired by a move to have the Institute recognised as an institute of higher education and to come under the aegis of the HEA. The position of Research Associateships was also revised and it was decided that they would in future not be confined to former members of the School. On 2 July 1973 the Minister for Education visited the Institute.
From January 1975 Professor Lewis took over the Directorship, a position he would hold for 25 years. In October the position of Research Associate was specified more precisely. It was resolved that any research worker of a standing comparable to a former Scholar and whose interests are close to that of the School could be considered; that they would be kept informed of activities of the School and granted library access; that the Director may allocate them a desk if they wish to spend a considerable part of their research time in the School, and that their publications would only be listed if they arise from work carried out in the School. Moreover, they could be granted expenses by the Board in connection with research carried out in the School only.
Since 1973 the School had argued for the establishment of a new administrative post of Clerk in the School. In August 1978, the Director formulated precise job descriptions for the two posts of Clerk and Librarian Executive respectively. The proposal was accepted by the Department of Education and on 1 March 1979 Mary Farrelly was appointed Secretary of the School. Eva Wills became Librarian-Executive.
In 1980 the format of the Symposia was slightly altered; there would in future by two invited review lecturers, four 40-minute lectures and 8 short communications. In March Mrs. Farrelly was recommended by the Board to become permanent Clerk of the School. But in October Mrs. Margaret Matthews was appointed instead. On 19 June 1981 the European Molecular Liquids Group was formally established, Prof. McConnell agreeing to serve on the Committee. He was appointed Chairman in October 1982. Professor Lewis was elected on the executive committee of the International Association of Mathematical Physics.
In October 1983 the Schrödinger Symposium was held in collaboration with the Austrian Embassy. There was another Schrödinger Commemoration in Imperial College in 1987. In December 1984 Professor McConnell wrote a tribute to Professor Paul Dirac, who died that month, in the "Irish Press". Professor Dirac had an enormous influence on the Institute in its early years.
In 1980 plans were made for a new development at 10 Burlington Road. This plan was left in abeyance for several years, but in the beginning of 1985 the cause of a new building was taken up again with particular emphasis on the benefits of housing all Schools on a single site. In December 1985 unsatisfactory progress was recorded, however.
In November 1986 the Board visited Roebuck house with the view to moving the Institute as a whole to this site. The Board reported to Council that it was satisfied with its current accommodation but that it recognised the advantages of housing the Institute on a single site. The need for safeguarding the independence of the Institute was stressed. OPW plans subsequently showed that it was feasible to house the entire Institute on this site. The future of Dunsink was also being considered. In December 1986 President Hillery visited the Institute. In a letter of thanks he praised the staff for their hospitality and expressed his pride in the Institute, hoping that it would endure and prosper. Professor McConnell made the case for changing the name of the School to "Erwin Schrödinger School of Theoretical Physics". Legal advice indicated that this change was outside the remit of the Board, however. In April 1987 this proposal was considered again. In March 1987 Professor Synge's 90th birthday was celebrated with a one-day seminar. Speakers were Prof. R. Bott (Harvard) and Prof. N. Balazs (Stony Brook).
At the end of 1987 a threat of abolition was hanging over the Institute. The Grant-in Aid for 1988 was reduced by 35%, but in negotiations with the Government a contribution of £500,000 was granted to the School of Celtic Studies from Lottery funds. An appropriate redistribution of funds over the Schools was agreed by Council. In March 1988 a deputation of the Institute had a meeting with the Department of Education to consider the possibility of moving to the Custom House Dock site which was being developed. This plan was also doomed to fail eventually.
At the end of the year the financial situation eased somewhat, and normal estimates were submitted to the Department for 1989. However, the Assistant Professorship and the Senior Professorship vacated by Rev. Prof. McConnell upon his retirement in December 1987 were embargoed.
In November a permanent loan agreement was made with regard to the De Valera collection of scientific books. This collection is still in the School of Theoretical Physics and is now housed in a special "De Valera Room" which is also used as discussion room.
In January 1989 the President unveiled a Schrödinger plaque at his former residence in Clontarf under the aegis of the Irish-Austrian society. Subsequently, a pamphlet on Schrödinger by Emeritus Prof. McConnell was launched.
The Secretary of State visited the Institute in November and was apparently satisfied with the presentations by the Directors. But he intimated that continued justification was still required in order to secure funding. In December 1989 preparations for a Golden Jubilee Celebration were well under way and a publication was planned to honour the occasion. It was decided that each School should contribute an article in Irish. The 50-Year Report would unfortunately not appear until April1995 due to a lack of administrative staff. Miss Wills retired in 1990 as Librarian Executive. She was replaced by Mrs. Ann Goldsmith on a temporary basis but in December 1990 the Department refused sanction for the filling of the permanent post of Librarian Executive. Ann Goldsmith was retained as temporary Librarian owing to a generous offer from Cosmic Physics to deduct £10,000 from their Pay allocation for this purpose. Also in following years she was employed on a contract basis. It would take until April 1995 before she could be appointed to a permanent position as Librarian-Executive. In September 1996 she entered into a job-sharing arrangement with a Systems Administrator.
In April 1990 a case was prepared for the filling of the third Senior Professorship. A scheme was proposed to the Minister including a third Senior Professor, a Professor and an Assistant Professor.
During 1990 the Director (Prof. Lewis) and his group became involved in a collaboration with engineers from DCU concerning a Programme for Advanced Technology. This was a spin-off from their work on large deviation theory and concerned the efficient routing of information over communication lines.
An EOLAS grant was obtained for the collaboration with Dr. Buffet (DCU) on queuing networks. Contact was also made with a group in Cambridge.
In 1992 the Chairman of the Governing Board, Prof. A. J. McConnell resigned after more than 50 years of duty, 22 years as Chairman. The Board was to remain without Chairman until 1996, when Professor Cathleen Morawetz was appointed as new Chairman. Simultaneously the constitution of the Board was altered and several new members were appointed to the Board by the Minister. At the end of 1992, a substantial case was prepared for the appointment of a third Senior Professor to be presented to the Department. A meeting with a senior official in the Department was inconclusive, however, and it was then decided to rely on Article 12(2) of the Establishment Order rather than seek sanction. It was agreed that when the new Chairman was appointed a meeting with the Minister would be sought to discuss the School's difficulties. It was stressed that no attempt would be made at any stage to specify a particular field. A review committee would be convened consisting of the Chairman of the Board with three external experts to make the case for the appointment of a Senior Professor.
The queuing network research was making considerable progress and meetings with industry were being set up to establish research collaboration and funding. It was hoped that this would also be helpful in convincing the Government to fill the Senior Professorship. In March 1993, Mentec Computer Systems agreed to support the School in an application to EOLAS under the Industrial Cooperation Scheme and to contribute £57,000. In April 1993 the project application was approved, the total sum involved being £105,000. The Dublin Applied Probability Group was formed and work commenced. In December 1994 considerable progress had been made but then Mentec decided to withdraw from the project. A new industrial partner was sought and members of the group visited and gave presentations at various telecommunications companies. This resulted in contact being established with a Swedish company, Telia Research and a joint research proposal with Cambridge University Computer Lab. and Telia Research was submitted for funding by the European ESPRIT programme. Funding for this programme with the name "Measure" was approved early 1995.
In 1996 Hewlett Packard expressed an interest to join the Measure project. They were willing to cover half the cost of an Assistant Professor. This year was the centenary year of Synge's birthday and it was decided to erect a plaque in his honour on the building at 64 Merrion Square. Permission was obtained from the owners and the unveiling took place on 23 March 1997.
The Measure project was yielding significant results and a shared patent application was prepared. This led to a discussion about royalties and a single policy on IPR and Royalties for the two physics schools was prepared. The Board agreed that intellectual property rights could be transferred to a campus company set up in Cambridge in exchange for share options. But in February 1998, the Council withdrew from this agreement on the grounds that it was unclear if DIAS could hold equity. It was then proposed to consider the possibility of setting up a company in Dublin.
Following the success of this project a submission was made to the Department for further posts: 4 Assistant Professors and 2 Professors. The cost to the Exchequer would be small as some of the cost would come from contract income.
In March 1997 the advertisement for a Senior Professor in the School was approved by the Board. In July a shortlist was drawn up and a selection panel appointed. In February 1998 the Board agreed on the name of Dr. T. C. Dorlas to be forwarded to the Government for appointment to Senior Professor. The Board also recommended that Dr. D. O'Connor be appointed Professor and that sanction for this appointment should be sought a.s.a.p.
In June 1998 a dispute arose with the Registrar. This resulted in disciplinary procedures being taken by Council. A long drawn-out legal process ensued which took a lot of time and effort from the Chairman of Council, Professor Dervilla Donnelly, and Professor Lewis in particular. It finally resulted in the Registrar's dismissal in April 2002.
Professor Dorlas took up his position as Senior Professor in January 2000.
In April 2000, Professor Lewis founded a company, named "Corvil" together with his two Assistant Professors Fergal Toomey and Raymond Russell to exploit the intellectual property developed with the European ESPRIT project called MEASURE. Several of his students, as well as the Systems Administrator Ian Dowse joined him in this endeavour.
Sadly, on 18 November 2000, Professor O' Raifeartaigh died after a short illness. Just before that, in August, he had been awarded the prestigious Wigner Medal for his "pioneering contributions to particle physics". A memorial conference in his honour was held in the Institute in June 2001. In December 2000 Dr. O'Connor's name was submitted to the President for appointment as Senior Professor and a year later, in November 2001 his warrant was signed by the President. In January 2001 Professor Lewis was awarded one of the first SFI Fellowships to set up a new research group on Communication Technology, the Communications Network Research Institute, on the grounds of the Dublin Institute of Technology for a period of 5 years. There upon he resigned as Director and took leave of absense from the Institute. Professor Dorlas became Director of the School from 1 August 2001.
The sad loss of Professor O'Raifeartaigh and the departure of Professor Lewis effectively meant the end of an era for the School of Theoretical Physics, and the beginning of a new era. In the year 2000 the constitution of the Board had changed and Sir Michael Atiyah had taken over from Prof. Morawetz as Chairman.
It was immediately resolved to advertise for an additional Senior Professor with the intention to have one in place by October 2002.
The year 2002 was in many ways a very eventful year for the Institute and the School of Theoretical Physics in particular. Already since 1998 a subcommittee of Council had been working on a Strategy Statement for the Institute. Progress was slow and was not helped by the ongoing dispute with the Registrar. In 2001 a new Finance Officer was appointed, Mr. Cecil Keaveney. In the absence of a Registrar, he took up the task of completing the Strategy Document. The "Strategy Statement 2002-2006" appeared, and was officially presented to the Department, in May 2002. It contained plans for expansion of the Institute, a move to a new building which could house the whole Institute, and the establishment of a new category of temporary academic position to be called "Schrödinger Fellow" in the Physics Schools, and "Bergin Fellow" in the School of Celtic Studies. Even though only the last of these proposals has so far been fully realised, this document fostered enhanced cooperation between the Schools, under the leadership of the Chairman of Council, Professor Donnelly. When the dispute with the Registrar finally came to a conclusion with his dismissal in April 2002, candidates were sought for his replacement. In November 2002, Mr. Keaveney was appointed as the new Registrar.
Meanwhile, at the end of 2001, preparations had been under way for the appointment of a third Senior Professor. Fortunately, the Governing Board had a very eminent Chairman in Sir Michael Atiyah, who was able to enquire about suitable candidates. In January 2002 interviews were held and the interview committee, comprising Sir Michael Atiyah, Professor Gerard 't Hooft (Utrecht), Professor Joe Pule (UCD) and Profs. Dorlas and O'Connor unanimously agreed to propose the name of Professor Werner Nahm to the Government for appointment. This time the Government did not take very long to approve the appointment and Professor Nahm took up his position on 1 November 2002.
On 15 April 2002 Professor Lewis retired as Senior Professor and was appointed Emeritus Professor. He was still extremely active, being heavily involved with the new company Corvil and leading the research group CNRI at the same time. His retirement was marked by a small dinner in November 2002. Unfortunately, in October 2003 he fell ill and in January 2004 news came that he had passed away. This came as a tremendous shock to all his friends, especially since he had still been so active in recent years. It was immediately decided to hold a conference in his honour. It was organised by Profs. Dorlas and Goldsmith (DIT) and Dr. Ken Duffy (CNRI) and took place in the Dublin Institute of Technology in June 2005. Many of his friends paid tribute to his warm friendship, his tremendous encouragement and his great scientific achievements. He was Director of the School for 25 years and shepherded it through some of its most difficult periods.
Part of the Strategy Statement was a proposal to have an in-depth review carried out of the research of the three Schools by international panels of experts in the respective areas. It took place in November 2004 and the Review Panel of the School of Theoretical Physics, headed by Professor Arthur Jaffe (Harvard) commented that "The School of Theoretical Physics is a jewel within Ireland. Although it is a relatively small institution, the School plays an important role in focusing on science in Ireland and linking it with leading science in the rest of the world." It also recommended the strengthening of the School with the appointment of at least two, preferably 3 new Senior Professors, and it endorsed the plans for a move to a new building to house all Schools as expressed in the Strategy Statement. At the time concrete plans were on the drawing board for a new building in Fenion Street, at the back of #5 Merrion Square, which houses the School of Cosmic Physics. This plan has since been stalled.
In May 2005, a new Board was appointed with Prof. Jaffe as Chairman. It was strengthened in 2006 with the appointment of four additional eminent members with the hope of realising the recommendations set out in the report of the review panel. A new Strategy Document is being prepared and is due to appear in May 2007.
Research and Seminars
The arrival of Prof. Lewis introduced a new line of research to the School. Although he had started his career with research into aspects of quantum mechanics, with the development of the Dalgarno-Lewis method while a Ph. D. student in Belfast, and the theory of generalised measurements and quantum Markov processes while in Oxford, his interest had shifted to Statistical Mechanics, partly under the influence of Mark Kac. The main lines of research in the School thus gradually became more focused to two areas: Statistical Mechanics and Quantum Field Theory. The following is a short synopsis of the most important work in these areas.