|Apples and Atoms by Eilis O'Connell (Image: @TCDArtCurator)|
A sculpture celebrating the life and work of Ernest T.S. Walton, Nobel Laureate for Physics, and former graduate and professor at Trinity College Dublin, was opened to the public by Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn TD, this week at a special ceremony at TCD. The sculpture titled ‘Apples and Atoms’ was designed by artist, Eilís O’Connell RHA.
Ernest T. S. Walton studied at Trinity where he was a scholar and won many College prizes, including a gold medal in experimental science. He graduated with joint honours in mathematics and physics in 1926 and went to Cambridge to do his postgraduate work. Thus began the momentous collaboration between Walton and his fellow physicist, John Cockcroft, which exploited linear acceleration methods to induce nuclear disintegration by artificial means, as observed by Ernest Walton, on April 14th, 1932. It was the first time that Einstein’s E=mc2was verified directly in a nuclear reaction. His and Cockcroft’s success, using artificially accelerated particles for experimenting on the atom, meant the research into the nature and structure of the atom was no longer restricted by having to rely on natural sources of radiation. In 1946, Walton returned to Trinity College, to become the Erasmus Smith Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy where he remained until 1985.
“Ireland is home to many science heroes and Ernest T.S. Walton is one of our leading ones. This sculpture pays homage to him as a scientist, teacher and truly celebrates his scientific legacy that continues to educate and inspire our students of science today, ” said Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn.
|Ernest TS Walton|
“The sculpture was commissioned to commemorate Ernest T.S. Walton as a significant figure in the history of the College and in the development of science globally. It reinforces Trinity’s special connection with him and is an opportunity to honour him as a scientist as well as a champion of science education, an academic and an Irishman,” said Provost of Trinity, Dr Patrick Prendergast.
The sculpture by Eilis O’Connell is a stack of mirror polished spheres, increasing in size as they rise upward which appear to defy gravity. It is located beside the Fitzgerald Building, home to the School of Physics. Reflected in the stack of spheres are specially planted native Irish apple trees that refer to the private man and his keen interest for growing fruit trees.
“The sculpture pays homage to Walton’s most important characteristics – his intellectual rigour and hands-on ability to physically build the particle accelerator and his nurturing ability as teacher and father. A man is not defined solely by his academic achievements but also by the memories he leaves behind in others,” explained sculptor, Eilís O’Connell.
Ernest T.S. Walton generously presented his papers to the College Library in 1993; his family subsequently donated his Nobel medal. A small exhibition, which includes the medal, is currently on display in the Long Room, to mark the formal launch of the sculpture.