TCD academics receive Ireland’s ‘Nobel Prizes’

Posted on: 03 November 2005

President Mary McAleese presented the inaugural Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals to two of Ireland’s leading thinkers: Prof. Michael Coey and Prof. John Dillon, both from Trinity College.

The medals acclaim Ireland’s foremost contributors to the world of learning and since their launch have been dubbed as Ireland’s ‘Nobel prizes’. They are awarded by the RIA and sponsored by the HEA and the Irish Independent.

Academy President Professor James Slevin, said that ‘Professors Coey and Dillon are amongst a small elite of academics in Ireland that set the international hallmark of excellence in their respective fields of study’.

Mr Michael Kelly, Chairman of the Higher Education Authority said that ‘without a continuous commitment to the highest standards of quality in higher education, Ireland cannot compete with the best in the world’.

Prof. Michael Coey was awarded the Academy Gold Medal in the Physical and Mathematical Sciences. A Professor of Experimental Physics and SFI Research Professor, Prof. Coey is a world-leading expert in magnetism and magnetic materials. He is ranked 309th in a list of 1100 most-cited physicists in the world. He is the only person working in Ireland to appear on this list and he is the only Irish based foreign associate of the National Academy of Sciences (USA). In 1994 he established Magnetic Solution Ltd a start-up company that is targeting applications in the area of magnetic storage and spintronic devices. His current research will create a new nanoscale form of electronics based on the spin of electrons. This promises new types of electronic circuits measured in atoms, shrinking computers down dramatically in size. One of the judges Sir David King, the UK’s Chief Scientific, Adviser praised Prof. Michael Coey as ‘a good science citizen’ for his work in the establishment of the CRANN Science Gallery, the first forum for scientific debate in Ireland.

Prof.  John Dillon, Regius Professor of Greek at TCD received the Academy Gold Medal in the Humanities. He is the leading authority in the world of classical philosophy after Plato.  His book The Heirs of Plato was a groundbreaking contribution to classical philosophy because it was the first detailed study of Platonic thinking in the generation following the death of Plato. Much of Professor Dillon’s work has revolved around explaining and demonstrating the importance of ancient thinkers previously misunderstood, under-appreciated or simply ignored. Professor Dillon’s corpus of work now represents one of the major contributions in the modern era to the study of ancient philosophy. He is one of the most important classical scholars Ireland has ever produced.

Over the next four years the Royal Irish Academy will be presenting gold medals to award Ireland’s foremost thinkers in the social sciences, life sciences, engineering sciences, environment and geosciences.