Stoney, Dr. George Johnstone

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Stoney, Dr. George Johnstone

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15 February 1826 - 5 July 1911


(from Wikipedia entry)

George Johnstone Stoney (15 February 1826 - 5 July 1911) was an Anglo-Irish physicist. He is most famous for introducing the term electron as the "fundamental unit quantity of electricity". He had introduced the concept, though not the word, as early as 1874 and 1881, and the word came in 1891. He published around 75 scientific papers during his lifetime. Stoney was born at Oakley Park, near Birr, County Offaly, in the Irish Midlands, the son of George Stoney (1792-) and Anne Blood (1801-1883). The Stoney family is an old-established Anglo-Irish family. He attended Trinity College, Dublin, graduating with a B.A. in 1848. From 1848 to 1852 he worked as an astronomy assistant to William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse at Birr Castle, County Offaly, where Parsons had built the world's largest telescope, the 72-inch Leviathan of Parsonstown. Simultaneously Stoney continued to study physics and mathematics and was awarded an M.A. by Trinity College Dublin in 1852.

From 1852 to 1857 he was professor of physics at Queen's College Galway. From 1857 to 1882 he was employed as Secretary of the Queen's University of Ireland, an administrative job based in Dublin. In the early 1880s he moved to the post of superintendent of Civil Service Examinations in Ireland, a post he held until his retirement in 1893. In that year, he took up residence in London. Stoney died in 1911 at his home in Notting Hill, London. During his decades of non-scientific employment responsibilities in Dublin, Stoney continued to do scientific research on his own. He also served for decades as honorary secretary and then vice-president of the Royal Dublin Society, a scientific society modelled after the Royal Society of London, and after his move to London Stoney served on the council of that society too. Additionally he intermittently served on scientific review committees of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from the early 1860s on. Stoney published seventy-five scientific papers in a variety of journals, but chiefly in the journals of the Royal Dublin Society. He made significant contributions to cosmic physics and to the theory of gases. He estimated the number of molecules in a cubic millimetre of gas, at room temperature and pressure, from data obtained from the kinetic theory of gases. Stoney's most important scientific work was the conception and calculation of the magnitude of the "atom of electricity". In 1891, he proposed the term 'electron' to describe the fundamental unit of electrical charge, and his contributions to research in this area laid the foundations for the eventual discovery of the particle by J.J. Thomson in 1897.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in June 1861 on the basis of being the author of papers on "The Propagation of Waves," - "On the Rings seen in Fibrous Specimens of Calc Spar," and Molecular Physics, published in the Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, et cetera, Distinguished for his acquaintance with the science of Astronomy & General Physics. Stoney married his cousin, Margaret Sophia Stoney, by whom he had had two sons and three daughters. For most of his decades in Dublin, Stoney resided in the Dundrum, Dublin neighbourhood. The street that he lived on was later renamed Stoney Road in his memory. After Stoney died in London, his cremated ashes were buried in St. Nahi's Church in Dundrum.

One of Stoney's sons, George Gerald Stoney, was a scientist. But a more scientifically notable relative was Stoney's nephew, the Dublin-based physicist George FitzGerald (1851-1901). Stoney and FitzGerald were in regular communication on scientific matters. In addition, on political matters, both Stoney and FitzGerald were active opponents of the Irish Home Rule Movement. In their political opinion, the spirit of Irish Home Rule and later Irish nationalism was contrary to the spirit of science. Stoney resigned from his job as Secretary of Queen's University of Ireland in 1882 in objection to a government decision to introduce "sectarianism" into the system; i.e., Stoney wanted to keep the system non-denominational, but the government acceded to Irish Catholic demands for Catholic institutions.

Craters on Mars and the Moon are named in his honour.

His brother Bindon Blood Stoney was Engineer of Dublin Port is renowned for building a number of the main Dublin bridges, and developing the Quayside, as well as other engineering projects.

For more information, see Wikipedia entry at: .


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Welby, Victoria, Lady, 1837-1912 (1837-1912)

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Created 2015-10-29 by Anna St.Onge.


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