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Dublin: 11°C Saturday 13 August 2022

7 Dublin curiosities that tell of capital's inventive past

New book, Ingenious Dublin, charts the world-shaking discoveries, inventions and feats of engineering that came out of the capital – and helps you find physical signs of them yourself.

Do you know what this artefact on Sir John Rogerson's Quay was used for? Read on...
Do you know what this artefact on Sir John Rogerson's Quay was used for? Read on...
Image: infomatique via Flickr/Creative Commons

AN AWARD-WINNING science writer has done the digging on Irish people whose discoveries and feats of engineering have changed the world.

Mary Mulvihill’s Ingenious Dublin is available for an introductory 99 cent on Kindle’s app until 15 September, which means it can be read on everything from a smartphone to a laptop. The idea, Mulvihill told this week, is that readers can use it as a quirky tour guide of the capital.

To this end she has helped us identify some of the hidden curiosities to keep an eye out for around the city as they give a real insight into great inventions, scientific discoveries and industrial feats of Dublin’s past.

Mulvihill previously won the IBM Science Journalist of the Year award for her first book, Ingenious Ireland (2002). That is currently out of print but she has plans to bring counties together in individual guides of discovery.

You can download the free Ingenious Dublin maps to help you track over 80 locations mentioned in her book here or download podcasts to help you take a walking tour.

  • As a matter of interest, there is an Ingenious Dublin walking tour starting from Fishamble Street at 3pm today. Its title? Blood and Guts! 1,000 years of Dublin’s medical history. If you’re intrigued, it’s €10 a ticket and you should book here.

7 Dublin curiosities that tell of capital's inventive past
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  • One of Europe's oldest psychiatric hospitals

    St Patrick's Hospital on Steevens Lane - this photo shows the still lane-like entrance to it - was lfounded in 1749 and left £11,000 by Gulliver's Travels author Jonathan Swift who was convinced by deafness and dizziness in his later years that he was losing his mind. It turned out he had a disorder of the inner ear, not mental health problems. Image: infomatique/William Murphy/Flickr.
  • The world's oldest tyre factory

    It's now the site of Dunnes Stores HQ but a plaque at this entrance on Stephen's Street (off South Great George's Street) shows where the factory of Scotsman John Dunlop once stood. It was the first factory in the world to make pneumatic tyres on a commercial level and only moved to Coventry in England in 1892 after Dublin residents objected to the fumes from the manufacturing. Image: infomatique/William Murphy/Flickr.
  • A 19th century lead mine chimney at Ballycorus

    This one isn't too far from Shankill village in south Dublin to where mined lead ore was brought from the small lead vein at Ballycorus. The smelter closed in 1913 but this chimney, built on a hill an dused to conduct away the noxious fumes, still stands. Image: Joe King/Flickr.
  • The world's first manned hot air balloon flight

    Wicklow-born Richard Crosbie flew in a hot air balloon - the first such manned flight - from Ranelagh Gardens (where this statue now stands) to Clontarf - in 1785. Image: infomatique/William Murphy/Flickr.
  • Victorian diving bell on Sir John Rogerson's Quay

    This was designed in 1860 by Offaly-born Bindon Blood Stoney, who invented it so that workmen could work inside it and underwater on the construction of new quays. Bindon Blood Stoney was dubbed the "father of Irish concrete" for his work on the docks in Dublin. Stoney Road near East Wall is named after him.The same man also worked on the Boyne railway viaduct at Drogheda, which is still in use. His brother George Johnstone Stoney 'invented' the electron. Image: infomatique/William Murphy/Flickr.
  • Dinosaur eggs and 540-million-year-old fossils in an attic at Trinity

    Dinosaur eggs like these above (file pic); 540-year-old fossils called Oldhamia, the oldest fossils in Ireland; a lump of meteorite that fell in Co Tipperary in 1865 and 50,000 fossils are among the treasures in the little-visited geology museum in an attic area of Trinity College Dublin. Image: PA archive.
  • Spot heights on Poolbeg Lighthouse

    Mary Mulvihill writes: "On April 8, 1837, surveyors from the Ordnance Survey of Ireland recorded the low-water mark of the spring tide by chiselling four notches onto the outside of Poolbeg Lighthouse. Their crow's foot mark - shaped so as to fit their surveying equipment - became the reference point against which all the heights for the rest of the country were measured in the survey's massive mapping project, which was underway." The marks can still be spotted on old walls and on Poolbeg Lighthouse at very low water. Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland.
  • Spot heights elsewhere in the city

    This is what the crow's foot or benchmark as mentioned in previous silde looks like. They appear elsewhere around the city, including this one at Cork Hill/Castle Street. Image: Ingenious Ireland.
  • Poolbeg lighthouse archive sketch

    This sketch shows the 'datum' at Poolbeg lighthouse which gave a baseline for Ordnance Survey measurements. Image: Ingenious Ireland.
  • Department of Justice foyer as geological gallery

    "The foyer of 51 St Stephen's Green is adorned with 40 large slabs of beautiful stone. This unusual geological gallery was erected in 1845 by Sir Robert Kane to promote the commercial potential of Ireland's quarries and natural resources." Kane was director of both the Museum of Economic Geology and the Museum of Irish Industry, which were then at no. 51 - the building is now home to the Department of Justice and Equality.

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