Thomas Edwin Nevin

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Thomas Edwin Nevin (4 October 1906 in Bristol, Somerset – 16 July 1986 in Dublin) was an Irish physicist and academic who had a distinguished career in the field of molecular spectroscopy.[1] He was Professor of Experimental Physics and Dean of the Faculty of Science in University College Dublin (UCD) from 1963 to 1979.[2]

Education and careerEdit

Born in 1906 in Bristol, England, the oldest of seven children of an Irish father and English mother, the family soon settled in Ireland where he spent his youth. From 1919 to 1924 he attended the CBS Sexton Street secondary school in Limerick City. The school had no science program, but Nevin was interested in physics and managed to learn the subject pretty thoroughly on his own. In 1924 he got a scholarship to University College Dublin (UCD). While there he excelled in mathematics and physics, winning first-class honours every year, and earning an honours B.Sc. in Experimental Physics and Mathematics in 1927. He got his M.Sc. under JJ Nolan in 1928 for a treatise on "The Effect of Water Vapour on the Diffusion Coefficients and Mobilities of Ions in the Air". That year he was also awarded an 1851 Research Fellowship (a legacy of The Great Exhibition of 1851), and this enabled him to study spectroscopy at Imperial College, London (1929–1931). In 1931 he returned to UCD to continue his research and was appointed assistant in the department of experimental physics.[3]

In 1940, he was awarded a D.Sc. degree at National University of Ireland (NUI) for previously published work, and in 1942, he was awarded an honorary doctorate at Queen's University Belfast.[3] Throughout the 1930s and 1940s he continued his research in molecular spectroscopy, often working with research groups in fundamental particle and cosmic ray physics. He was a capable administrator at UCD, serving on the university's finance and buildings committees, as well as the academic council and governing body, and he initiated many improvements to the physics department. When J. J. Nolan died in 1952, Nevin succeeded him as Professor of Experimental Physics, a position he held until his retirement in 1979.

Nevin was a strong advocate for expansion of the UCD campus, which for half a century was based at Earlsfort Terrace in the city. As a key member of UCD's academic council and a member of its buildings committee (1957–76), he was instrumental in moving the science faculty to the new Belfield campus in the southern suburbs in 1964.

He was a key figure in the formation of the Irish branch of Institute of Physics in Ireland.[4][5]

At the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) he was a member of the governing boards of the school of theoretical physics (1943-1961) and the school of cosmic physics (1948-1956).[6] On 16 March 1942 he was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) and served on its council from 1944 to 1968.

Personal lifeEdit

Thomas E. Nevin was born in Bristol, Somerset on 4 October 1906.[7] He was the eldest of seven children born to Thomas Nevin of Cashel, County Tipperary, and Alice Nevin (née Higginson) of Herefordshire. Áine Ní Chnáimhín (1908–2001) who wrote a biography of Pádraic Ó Conaire was Nevin's sister; historian and trade unionist Donal Nevin was his brother.[8]

In January 1936 he married Monica T. M. Morrissey, a UCD graduate in Celtic studies who went on to serve on the Council of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and did research on antiquarian matters for Irish History Online.[9] The Nevins had four children, all girls.[3]


Thomas E. Nevin MedalEdit

Each year at UCD, the Thomas E. Nevin Medal and Prize is given to the graduate who obtains First Class Honours and first place in the BSc Honours Degree Examination in Physics.[1][10]


  1. ^ a b Long Description Thomas E. Nevin Medal and Prize
  2. ^ UCD Deans of Science Professor Thomas E. Nevin, Experimental Physics: 1963-1976
  3. ^ a b c Nevin, Thomas Edwin (1906–86) Dictionary of Irish biography
  4. ^ 40th Anniversary Newsletter Institute of Physics in Ireland, Series 5, No 10, September 2004
  5. ^ About Us: Early History of IOP in Ireland The Institute of Physics in Ireland
  6. ^ School of Theoretical Physics: Council and Governing Boards as at 31/3/1960: Appointed Members Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS)
  7. ^ UKBMD Births, Marriages, Deaths and Censuses on the internet
  8. ^ Ní Chnáimhín, Áine (1908–2001) Dublin City University
  9. ^ Author: Monica Nevin Irish History Online
  10. ^ Desmond McKernan wins 1993 Thomas E. Nevin Medal & Prize Borough of Manhattan Community College

External linksEdit

  • "Physicists of Ireland, Passion and Precision", by Mark McCartney (Editor), Andrew Whitaker (Editor), 1 edition (September 15, 2003) CRC Press. ISBN 0750308664