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SHEILA TINNEY (1918 – 2010)

Pioneer in the field of mathematical physics

Shiela Tinney (1918-2010)

Professor Debra Laefer

Sheila Tinney was described by Nobel Laureate Erwin Schrödinger as ‘among the best equipped and most successful of the younger generation of physicists in this country’. Born in 1918, Tinney was just one of 8 girls among 126 boys to sit an honours mathematics paper in the Irish Leaving Certificate. It is believed she was the first Irish woman to receive a PhD in the field of mathematics.

She published papers on a range of topics such as crystal lattices and wave mechanics, working alone, or alongside great scientific figures such as Yukawa, Schrödinger, and Heitler. After time spent at Princeton University in 1948, where Einstein was still teaching and Openheimer was Director, she returned to Ireland where she became Associate Professor of mathematical physics at University College Dublin, in 1966. It was here she gained a reputation as a strong role model for young female academics. She died on 27 March 2010.

After seeing initial sketches by artist Vera Klute Sheila’s daughter, Deirdre said, I think it captures a familiar and core aspect of her nature to the extent that it breathes life to me. I’m sure it would have the same effect on many other people who knew her from different walks of life, whether students and colleagues or people outside academia.

For further information on Sheila Tinney see here.