De Valera—an Appreciation


14 October 1882 -29 August 1975 

Elected F.R.S. 1968 

By J. L. Synge, F.R.S. 

Eamon de Valera will go down in history as the man who won independence for Eire (Ireland, in the English language) or the Irish Republic, a political unit covering twenty-six counties of the island. His ambition was to make the whole island a single independent nation, but in that he did not succeed. His personal and political lives have been covered by several biographies, and at the end of this memoir I give references to these and to some other articles and documents bearing on him and on the country he did so much to set in its present form. But the main purpose of this memoir is to explore an enigmatic personality who combined with his more obvious gifts an enduring passion for science, and in particular for mathematics, a passion which led him, at the height of his political power, to act as a patron of learning in general, with the establishment of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies as his most significant achievement.

This memoir consists of five parts: (1) chronology of a long and active public life, (2) brief sketch of his personal history—birth, marriage, family, (3) exploration of him as scientist and mathematician, (4) establishment of the Institute, (5) reminiscences of three men well qualified to write about him.