Monday 26 August 2019

Stokes' contribution to science recalled

The plaque that pays tribute to Stokes in Skreen
The plaque that pays tribute to Stokes in Skreen
Skreen church. Pics: Carl Brennan

Jessica Farry

There is a theory among those in the science world that George Gabriel Stokes has the most scientific items named after him, such as equations, constants and more.

Sir Stokes, originally from Skreen in County Sligo, is often regarded as being one of the most famous physicists and mathematicians in the world.

Why, then, is it that very little is made of Sir Stokes here among those who are not that way inclined?

"I think it's because maybe no-one owns him, the same way that Trinity College is connected to William Hamilton," said Professor Peter Lynch, School of Mathematics & Statistics.

Professor Lynch went on to tell The Sligo Champion that Sir Stokes is not celebrated as much in Ireland as perhaps he should be.

"He is slightly neglected in Ireland. He is one of the major giants of science born in this country. He never lost touch with his home, he used to come back to Ireland."

Stokes spent his career at the University of Cambridge, where he was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics.

He remained there until his death in 1903.

Many of Stokes' equations are used in everyday life, such as in weather forecasting, and building ships, calculating bloodflow and much more.

"All areas of his work has impacted on everyday life now. You could claim that he was the greatest Irish born scientist ever but that might be slightly controversial, he is most definitely among the greatest."

Professor Lynch added: "He was a very religious man. He was stern and solemn and very reliable."

The Navier-Stokes equation, which describes the behaviour of flowing fluids, is often billed as being of the most important scientific equations ever, and is mentioned alongside more familiar equations such as the law of gravity, Pythagoras' Theory and more.

In honour of Sir Stokes' Sligo roots, and his deep love for his home county, a special event will take place in Skreen Parish Church on Sunday August 11th at 4pm.

Professor Lynch penned a chapter titled 'Stokes' Fundamental Contributions to Fluid Dynamics' in the Oxford published 'George Gabriel Stokes - Life, Science and Faith' and he will be delivering a lecture at the event in Skreen this Sunday afternoon.

He will also present the book to the parish of Skreen at the event.

Stokes would be 200 on August 13th, so it is fitting that such an event takes place around the time of his birthday.

His father was a rector in the Skreen parish.

Sligo Champion