May 25, 2010
Irish history might have taken a different trajectory had aspiring mathematician Éamon "Dev" De Valera (1882-1975) won a post as professor of mathematics in 1913.
Dev got close to securing the professorship of mathematical physics at University College, Cork three years before the 1916 Easter Rising insurrection.
"If he had gotten the job, he would definitely have continued at the maths,” said Cáit Ní Shúilleabháin (UCC), who recently completed a Ph.D. thesis on the little-known mathematical life of the politician who became prime minister (1937-48; 1951-54; 1957-59) and president of Ireland (1959-73).
Although De Valera made no lasting contribution to the subject and did not publish any research papers, Ní Shúilleabháin discovered, for instance, that Arthur Conway, a leading authority on the subject, credited Dev as having “gone deeply into the subject of quaternions." Conway further stated that “He [Dev] is at present prosecuting an important research in them, which promises to be of considerable interest”.
Quaternion mathematics, which is used to represent complex numbers in four-dimensional space, has applications today in computer graphics, robotics, and signal processing.
Source: Irish Times (May 13, 2010)