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Synge Symposium

School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin

Thursday, 19 April 2012 from 09:20 to 16:00 (BST)

Synge Symposium

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Edward Hutchinson Synge (1890-1957)

"From peering at atoms to gazing at the stars"

A symposium will be held on Thursday, 19th April 2012 to celebrate the extraordinary vision of E H Synge, familiarly known as Hutchie. He was the nephew of John Millington Synge, who wrote the Playboy of the Western World, and the older brother of John Lighton Synge, the outstanding mathematician and theoretical physicist. Hutchie’s highly original conceptions in physics were fifty years ahead of his time. While his brother did not appreciate Hutchie’s achievements at the time, in old age he wrote of him: “In the course of a varied academic career, I never had a colleague as interesting intellectually as Hutchie, for his mind ranged widely over art, literature, history, philosophy and science”.

We are holding the symposium to belatedly honour this singular man, who studied at Trinity before entering a life of seclusion from which he never re-emerged into Dublin society. His visionary insights into future technology lie in what we now call nanoscience, with the invention of the near-field optical microscope that allows imaging below the diffraction limit, in LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) where he outlines a scheme for studies of the atmosphere, and in astronomy where he invented a new type of telescope.

The symposium will take place in Trinity College Dublin during our annual Trinity Week celebrations. Speakers include Lukas Novotny from Rochester University and Alistair Glasse from Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. Talks will give both historical and technical perspectives. A simultaneous publication of his key papers is planned, together with a short biography.

The symposium, which is open to all, will run from 9:20 to 16:00, and lunch will be provided for those registered to attend.


09:20        Welcome by Provost

Historical Presentations  09.30 - 10.45

- “A memoir of Edward Hutchinson Synge”, Petros Florides, Denis Weaire and John Donegan, Trinity College Dublin

- “Synge's Scientific MInd”, Terence Brown, Trinity College Dublin


Technical Presentations: Near-field Microscopy Talks 11.15 - 12.50

- “Hutchie Synge and Near-field Optics”, Lukas Novotny, University of Rochester

- “Optical nano-resolution imaging through a tiny crystal ball”, Zengbo Wang, University of Manchester

- “Turning Synge’s near-field microscope on its head” John Donegan, Trinity College Dublin


Technical Presentations: Atmospheric sensing and design of large telescopes 14.00 - 16.00

- “Probing the atmosphere with beams of light: Synge and the development of lidar” Geraint Vaughan, University of Manchester

- “Opening a new observational window on the Cosmos” Dave Fegan, University College Dublin

- “Gigantic telescopes”, Alistair Glasse, UK Astronomy Technology Centre



Do you have questions about Synge Symposium? Contact School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin

When & Where

Fitzgerald Building
School of Physics
Trinity College Dublin
Dublin 2

Thursday, 19 April 2012 from 09:20 to 16:00 (BST)

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School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin

The School of Physics has a long and distinguished history of teaching and research. Richard Helsham, the original Erasmus Smith's Professor, was the first to lay out Newton's methods in a form suitable for the undergraduate and his book 'Lectures in Natural Philosophy' was in use for a hundred years in the College and elsewhere in Europe. Later holders of the chair include G. F. Fitzgerald, famous in relativity theory, and E. T. S. Walton, the only Irish recipient of a Nobel prize in Science.

An elegant, dedicated Physical Laboratory building was completed in 1906 and, with the Sami Nasr Institute for Advanced Materials (SNIAM), completed in 2000, houses the central part of the School today. Excellent modern facilities for teaching and research are now provided over a number of buildings including CRANN, a state of the art centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology research.

The School currently consists of a very lively community of over 200, including 27 academic staff and approximately 60 postdoctoral fellows and 85 graduate students, representing many different nationalities.

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