Celebrating a founding father of science in Northern Ireland

16 October 2013

Speaking at a ceremony at Queen's University, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, Dr Robert Parker, said: "I am delighted to honour and celebrate the work of Belfast chemist Thomas Andrews, especially as 2013 marks the two hundredth anniversary of his birth. 

"The RSC Chemical Landmark Scheme was first introduced in 2001 and is the official recognition of important historical sites in the UK where a significant chemical discovery or research has taken place. 

"This marks a milestone in in our scheme as this is the first Chemical Landmark to take place in Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole. So we would like to congratulate Queen's University Belfast on receiving this award, as well as welcoming members of the Andrews family.

"Ireland has produced many famous scientists over the centuries, Robert Boyle probably being the most well-known, so it was pleasing that at the Science and Stormont  event we heard further support for a Chief Scientific Advisor to be appointed for Northern Ireland, continuing the great scientific legacy of this great community."  

Professor James McElnay, acting vice-chancellor of Queen's University Belfast, unveiled the plaque and explained the importance of Thomas Andrews to the university: "Professor Andrews was one of seven founding Professors of the University and was the first Professor in the then Department of Chemistry. His original training was as a medic and he went on to be vice-president of Queen's College. 

L-R: Professor James McElnay, acting vice-chancellor of Queen's University Belfast, John Andrews, Tom Andrews, Heather Boyd, Kathryn Boyd, Johnny Andrews

"Andrews made an enormous contribution on the liquification of gases and so fundamental were his discoveries that his work is now included in all the standard A-level chemistry text books.

"Science, engineering and medicine are so important to the modern university and it is a great honour for Queen's University to be recognised for the work of Andrews, by the award of a blue plaque from the Royal Society of Chemistry, for his seminal contributions on the 200th anniversary of Andrews' birth."

Johnny Andrews, one of Thomas Andrews' descendants, expressed his pride at being present for the unveiling. He said: "It's been a great privilege to be here to celebrate the influence of Thomas Andrews on science and Queen's University. As one of the founders of Queen's he was fundamental to this part of Ireland's contribution to the industrial revolution and introduced many of the scientific best practices that continue here to this day.

"In modern life Queen's pioneers discovery in medicine and science, an area that is vital to our economy and I'm delighted that my daughter has recently started studying zoology at Queen's, following in the scientific footsteps of many in our family. 

"I am also economy spokesman for the Conservatives in Northern Ireland and I wholeheartedly support the Royal Society of Chemistry's campaign for a chief scientific adviser for Stormont.

"Having a focal point for science at the Assembly, in line with the success of such posts in the other devolved nations, is absolutely vital for informing economic policy with regards to current debates, for example on fracking."

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Edwin Silvester
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