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1820 John Tyndall was born in Co Carlow on this day in 1820. He was a scientist who was the first person to discover why the sky is blue.

Tyndall excelled at school and started his career as a land surveyor. He was a key planner behind the railway construction that took place across Ireland and Britain in the 1840s. Tyndall then moved into teaching and developed an interest in science. He travelled to Germany to study further as their universities had some of the best scientific tutors in the world.


He began carrying out complex studies on the earth’s atmosphere and its reaction to different conditions. Years of experiments and complicated tests eventually led Tyndall to conclude that the sky is blue for the following reason;

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The light from the sun contains every colour in the spectrum. Molecules in the air scatter the blue range of colours more than the others. Therefore, the colour we see when we look at the sky appears to be blue. In the evening when the sun is setting, the sky may appear red because the blue light that was scattered by the molecules in the air have now moved out of our line of sight, leaving the red light that was not scattered as quickly.

Tyndall supported Darwin’s theory of evolution, and believed it was important to have a clear separation between science (knowledge & rationality) and religion (faith & spirituality).

John_Tyndall,_1872-Vanity-Fair Image copyright Ireland Calling

In a speech at the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1874, he said that religious sentiment should not be permitted to “intrude on the region of knowledge, over which it holds no command”.
Click here to read about more great Irish scientists

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1932 Peter O’Toole was born on this day in 1932. Where he was born is not certain. He had two birth certificates, one saying he was born in Connemara and one saying he was born in Leeds. O’Toole was raised in England but always considered himself to be Irish, where his father was from.

O’Toole became a household name after he played the lead role in the 1960s film Lawrence of Arabia. He remained a major star actor for the rest of his life, and enjoyed the luxuries and excitement that went with being a celebrity.

He once spoke about his years of partying during the height of his fame. O’Toole openly admitted that he enjoyed the period in his life and so did everyone else:

“I do not regret one drop. We were young people who’d been children throughout the war – well, you can imagine what it felt like in 1945 to be free – not to be bombed, not to be rationed, not to be restricted. There was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm. We weren’t solitary, boring drinkers, sipping vodka alone in a room. No, no, no: we went out on the town, baby, and we did our drinking in public!”

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Peter O'Toole I can't stand light. I hate weather. My idea of heaven Ireland CallingClick here to read more Peter O’Toole quotes

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1939 Niall O’Brien was born in Dublin on this day in 1939. He was an Irish Columban priest (from The Missionary Society of St. Columban) who was falsely accused of multiple murders in the Philippines in the 1980s. He spent his life working on humanitarian projects around the world.

O’Brien spent many years on the island of Negros (Negros is an island of the Philippines located in the Visayas) where he learnt the language and translated the bible. He saw the injustices suffered by the labourers working on the farms owned by the wealthy business owners.

He purchased a small piece of land himself and allowed the workers to run and own it themselves. He also organised protests for the remaining workers against the business owners. However, the businesses had the support of the government and the military so were not always successful.

O’Brien was branded a revolutionist and communist by the authorities.

On 6 May 1983, O’Brien, two other priests and six lay workers (they were called the ‘Negros Nine’ by the press) were arrested for the murders of the island’s mayor, Pablo Sola of Kabankalan and four of his associates. They were imprisoned for many several months without having a trial.

The case received a lot of media coverage in both Ireland and Australia, the birthplace of one of the other priests imprisoned.

Ronald Reagan was asked if he could do anything to help whilst he was visiting Ireland in 1984. The next day he made a phonecall to the office of President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. O’Brien and the others were released on the condition they left the country and didn’t return. They left the country on 3 July 1984.

He promised God that if he returned home to Ireland safely, he would make the pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, which he did in July 1984.

President Marcos lost his power in the Philippines the following year, and O’Brien returned to live in the country he now considered his home.

Here is a short video about Father O’Brien’s story.

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1954 Happy birthday to Sammy McIlroy, born in Belfast on this day in 1954. He was a professional footballer, who won the FA Cup with Manchester United in 1977. McIlroy went into management after his playing career ended, and was in charge of the Northern Ireland national team from 2000 until 2003.

Click here to read about Ireland’s top sports stars

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1981 Kieran Doherty died in Maze Prison on this day in 1981, after being on hunger strike for 73 days. He was a member of the Provisional IRA, who had been arrested after being apprehended by police whilst on a mission to set a bomb.

In prison, Doherty went on hunger strike along with many other IRA inmates as a protest to their status as criminals as opposed to political prisoners. Doherty was elected as TD for the Cavan-Monaghan constituency during his time in prison. His seat, along with fellow IRA inmate Paddy Agnew who won the seat for Louth, were enough to prevent Charles Haughey the chance to form a government.
1988 The first Aer Lingus flight with an all-female crew departed from Dublin Airport on this day in 1988. Captain Grainne Cronin piloted the flight to Shannon with the assistance of co-pilot Elaine Egan.

Cronin had joined Aer Lingus in 1977 and made her first flight in 1978. She had a long and successful career with the airline before retiring in 2010. Looking back at her years with the company she said:

“It wasn’t easy, I have to say, entering such a male-dominated arena but Aer Lingus were very forward thinking for the time, they were the second airline in Europe, after SAS, to introduce female pilots. British Airways did not hire any female pilots for at least a further seven or eight years. In 1978 and 1979, two more female pilots joined and we flew the flag for the female race for the next 10 years.”


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More on Irish history

Did you know?

‘The Irish Robin Hood’ - Redmond O’Hanlon is a legendary figure in Ireland. His ancestors had been a powerful family up until the 17th century, when their land was taken during the Catholic uprising and the Cromwellian invasion. So he became a highwayman. Find out more.

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