Irish priest-scientist honoured in Met Éireann storm names list

Irish priest-scientist honoured in Met Éireann storm names list Fr Nicholas Callan

The work of an Irish priest-scientist is to be recognised by inclusion on Met Éireann’s list of storm names for the 2023-2024 season.

Fr Nicholas Callan (1799–1864) invented the first induction coil in 1836, which was used in early telegraphy and is still being used in some electronic devices today.

The Irish priest used the coil to increase the efficiency of electrical batteries. Fr Callan was at the time professor of natural philosophy, now called physics, at St Patrick’s Pontificial College, Maynooth.

The Irish priest experimented extensively to produce larger and more powerful batteries, creating what was at the time the largest battery in the world. The ‘Maynooth battery’ went into commercial production in London.

Fr Callan also discovered an early form of galvanisation to protect iron from rusting when he was experimenting on battery design, and he patented the idea.

Met Éireann announced  on September 1 it was choosing names of “eminent Irish/Northern-Irish scientists, to honour their important contributions to science and benefits for humankind”.

Another well-known Catholic scientist is included in the list, Agnes Mary Clerke (1842–1907), an astronomer and science writer.

Her obituary in The Messenger in 1907 notes that she “was a devout Catholic and is well known for her zeal in foreign missionary work”.