The Enigma of the Irish Round Towers Part One
THE IRISH ROUND TOWERS – the key to an enigma. For more than forty years a top US scientist, Professor Philip Callahan has turned his mind to the enigma of the distinctive round towers of Ireland. His discovery, one of the most important this century, has huge implications for modern man. For these towers, built by monks in the 6th and 7th Centuries are no less than radio antennae.
Belleek is a small town in County Fermanagh, known for its fine porcelain. During the second world war it was also an ideal position for a top secret radio range station. As a 20 year old GI, Phil Callahan was responsible for keeping the radio range operational. This station, the first of its kind, enabled RAF Coastal Command to maintain 24 hour cover over the Western Approaches.
“I’m very pleased with what I did there,” Callahan says, “Keeping aircraft over the Atlantic all the time, meant the U-boats had to remain submerged. The convoys got through and both English and German lives were saved.”
Glendalough Round Tower situated in the old monastic site founded by St. Kevin who died in 618. The tower is built of mica schist, one of the most paramagnetic of all stones. Note the offset placement of the windows. It is considered the first university in the West.
Callahan’s ability to view life from a different perspective imbues his work with a freshness and vitality that is so important to any major scientific breakthrough. His contribution to science has been massive, yet as most of his work has been in the less than glamorous field of agriculture it has largely gone unnoticed by the general public.
Callahan’s expertise covers entomology, ornithology and VLF/ELF radio waves; he is a leading light in non-invasive methods of insect control. It is this broad knowledge that allows a cross-fertilization of ideas to occur, reminiscent of the way natural philosophers like Faraday, Newton and Tyndall worked.
Indeed much of Callahan’s pre-eminent work in the infrared spectrum and with paramagnetism is a continuation of the discoveries made by the Englishman Michael Faraday and his Irish friend John Tyndall.
Radio waves affect human behaviour
Callahan discovered that radio signals in the far infrared spectrum are a crucial element in insect behavior. He also knew that radio signals could affect human behaviour and well-being. During a particularly severe winter storm in Ireland in 1944 the young GI was on night duty alone at the station when both the primary and back-up transmitters failed. With ten aircraft out over the Atlantic dependent on his signal to return safely, it was a fraught moment.
“I couldn’t make any sense of it. Both machines were working, but there was no signal transmitting.” Callahan shakes his head at the memory. “But then I remembered what an old Arctic radio man once told me about how ice-coated insulators could earth the signal. So I climbed up the antennae poles and whacked the ice off with a broom stick. It did the trick. But by the time I’d finished I could hardly stand up – the radio energy had made me drunk.”
Round Tower Energy
As a climber Callahan was familiar with ‘Climber’s High’ – a feeling of calmness and peace yet with an alertness and a mind and body energy sustainable over long periods of time. He had become convinced that the feeling of elation he had when climbing was more to do with the power of the rock than anything else. When he visited his first round tower at Devenish on Loch Erne he experienced a similar feeling to ‘Climber’s High’.
“I’ve always been drawn to mystic places – spots on Earth that induce a feeling of awe or wonder, a feeling of oneness where there is no real sense of time. Ireland has many of these places. The round tower at Devenish is one.”
It was the feeling from Devenish, along with the incident at the radio station that created the impetus for Callahan’s round tower research. The Irish round towers were constructed by monks towards the end of the great period of monastic expansion, between the fifth and the seventh centuries. When they were built they would have been the only stone structure in the monastery. Today 25 or more towers stand upright in more or less perfect form, whilst the remains of another 43 dot the countryside.
“I remember asking what special power was hidden in these towers? And could we ever understand this power?”
to be continued next week:
Travelling in Ireland Callahan got to hear about the old healing ways – methods some scientists and medical minds are now re-evaluating. There is a scientific explanation, claims Callahan, to an ancient cure for mumps called the ‘Donkey’ cure. “Our bodies are also affected by far infrared radio frequencies and the Ancient Celts were well attuned to these subtle forces of nature.” They used their bodies as antennae. Until the 19th Century the inheritors of such wisdom in Ireland were the Booley people who spent all summer in the mountains grazing their cattle. Their closeness to nature gave some the gift of natural healing. Biddy Early, known as ‘The Witch of County Clare’ was one of them.
Biddy’s cure for mumps was to put a donkey’s halter over the neck of the patient, lead the patient to a stream running north-south and get him to drink from the water with his hands. He would then have to crawl three times under the belly of the donkey.
An old wives’ tale? Well the halter of a donkey was usually made of hemp, well doped with salts from the sweat of the animal. The halter looped around the neck thus forms a very efficient antenna. The weakly electrolytic water from the stream coating the inside of the throat is another antenna. The belly of a donkey emits huge amounts of far infrared in the 10 micrometre range, in fact far more energy than the best X-ray machine, proportionately, in the X-ray region. So the antennae narrowly focus the infrared energy through the swollen glands – a very effective cure.
“John Tyndall, the natural philosopher and friend of Michael Faraday ( yes THAT Faraday..), and Biddy Early lived at the same time. Tyndall’s genius was that his low energy research explains and makes rational Biddy Early’s low energy medicine.”
Discovering the star map
Some years before, Callahan had bought Professor Barrow’s Irish Heritage pamphlet on round towers which included a fine map of the still-standing towers. “I was lying on a couch looking at the map. There was something very familiar about it – apart from it being a map of Ireland! After about five or ten minutes, it suddenly flashed into my mind – insight I believe it is called – exactly why the map appeared so familiar. The towers formed a star map of the northern night sky. I have used that sky map dozens and dozens of times hiking around in the deserts of the world. It is gouged like a carved woodblock in my brain.”
One of the best preserved monasteries is Clonmacnoise in the centre of the great plain of Ireland. It is on the Shannon River and is widely assumed to have been the centre for the entire monastic movement.
Callahan thought it logical to use it to represent the star Polaris. All the other star groups then fell in to place – Ursa Major, Draco, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis and Lynx, far to the south.
What Callahan had drawn was an almost perfect sky for the December solstice. The imperfections in the round tower star plot lie mainly in the fact that the monks had to fix their towers to the lay of the land.
The constellations of the night sky at winter solstice beyond 45 degrees latitude.
The Round Towers of Ireland placed to match the night sky comstellations
In 2600 B.C., when the great pyramid of Giza was being built, the star Thuban would have been the pole star. About 13,000 years into the future the Earth will have wobbled to the point where Vega will be the pole star.
What is astonishing about the round tower star map of Ireland is that there were two great ecclesiastical centres during the early days of Christianity in Ireland, one at Armagh in the north and one at Clonmacnoise in central Ireland. In relation to the round tower plot of Draco, Armagh is exactly at the point of the ecliptic centre. This demonstrates very clearly that the Celtic monks of Ireland knew not only that the Earth was round, but also about precession – the slow wobble of the Earth around a theoretical or ecliptic centre of the sky, a circular movement which takes 25,800 years to complete.
It is probable that the knowledge of astronomy, and especially of precession and the ecliptic centre demonstrated in Ireland originated in Ancient Egypt. The Denderah circular zodiac (300 B.C.), for example, proves they too had this knowledge.
“The technocrat, who is high-energy, inorganic-slanted, will of course scoff at my star map of round towers and say that the correlation is coincidental,” Callahan shrugs. “For the high-energy technocrat every phenomenon that does not hit one on the head with an inorganic hammer is a coincidence. Coincidence is the cop-out word of the century used to put low-energy organic researchers in their place.”
to be continued…
Natural radio receivers
Could there have been any other purpose than this star map to the construction of Round Towers? Above all the Celts were a practical people and to undertake this huge effort just to demonstrate an esoteric knowledge seems unthinkable.
The tower on Devenish island, similar to many others, is a finely jointed structure of sandstone. It is 25 meters high and has a base circumference of 15.14 meters. In the fifth (and top) floor are four square-headed windows facing east-northeast, south-southeast, west southwest and north-northwest. The lower four floors each have either one or two windows facing in various directions. The doorway is approximately three meters above the ground.
Callahan found that all the round towers were made of paramagnetic stone, that is stone that resonates positively in a magnetic field. He also noticed that all these towers were to be found in diamagnetic areas – areas of much weaker and opposite, negative susceptibility.
It was Michael Faraday and John Tyndall who discovered these very subtle forces of paramagnetism and diamagnetism.
“Strangely enough, although physicists have spent years measuring these energies, and utilizing them to explain theoretical atomic forces, nowhere in the scientific literature has anyone, chemist, physicist, or biologist, asked what do these two opposite forces mean to life? Like Mark Twain once said “everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it.” ”
In 1956 Callahan discovered that moths were not attracted to visible light, but rather to the infrared emission from scent molecules that became coherent ‘peaks’ or resonant radiation when they hit the moths’ vibrating antenna. Moths navigate by molecular radio laser or MASER technology.
It was the antenna with all its hundreds of strange shaped spines (called sensilla) that was doing the work by feeling the radiation. So, for example, the reason why moths spiral rather than fly direct into a light source, is that different parts of the sensilla pick up slightly different wavelengths of the emission the closer they approach the source.
Callahan’s breakthrough came quite suddenly and totally unexpectedly.
“I was just admiring how clever the builders were to make a tower that had a very slight taper of three degrees. Then it dawned on me how similar these towers looked to certain insect antenna. It was a complete revelation.”
Obviously round towers are not conventional antennae. They are in fact built of limestone, mica schist or sandstone blocks and are therefore closer to silicon semiconductors than to metallic conductors. As the towers have dielectric (insulative) properties, they act as DC rectifiers and are able to detect and store incoming cosmic electromagnetic/magnetic energy.
The physics of dielectric systems is extremely complex. However they can be formed into tubular or rectangular waveguides to collect and direct energy in the same manner as a metallic radio or TV antenna. Since round towers are of the order of meters in length, they must be, according to Callahan, collectors of cosmic radio waves or magnetic energy of a few meters magnitude.
Using a scale model of a round tower, made from paramagnetic carborundum paper and placed in a high frequency oscillator called a Klystron, Callahan showed that the model actually increased (amplified) the radio energy from 6 dB to 9 dB. In another experiment it also detected differences in radiation at night and from the sun.
One of the most controversial questions concerning these towers is the usual high placement of the doors, with varying amounts of infill inside – up to door level. Historians who have attempted an explanation have cited the need for defence. But round towers are indefensible and not large enough to withstand a protracted siege. If the towers are viewed as antennae then the infill can be seen as a way the monks could fine-tune the tower to assure sharp resonance.
That the monks could detect this energy seems, from the perspective of a high-tech society, incredible. But all they were doing was tuning into nature; using their bodies as antennae, feeling the energy. In a further experiment a model of the Turlough round tower was soaked in a diamagnetic solution of Epsom salts and then allowed to dry naturally. Thin force lines spaced evenly at one millimetre appeared up the tower. On the conical roof at the top the force line spiralled up to the point. At certain heights up the tower the force lines became much thicker bands. These correlate precisely with the floor levels in the actual tower.
Natural energy for health and soil fertility
So where is the energy coming from and how do we utilise it? Energy has been detected from three sources: the night sky, the sun and lightning.
The night sky
The towers are aligned with the stars of the night sky at the winter solstice and we know that cosmic microwave radiation at 14.6 metre wavelengths is emitted from that region of the universe.
The towers also pick up particles of energy that are separated by sun-flare activity into North and South magnetic poles. At this temperature magnetic poles are torn apart and then stay apart until they become adsorbed*. South ‘monopoles’ (S) are adsorbed by paramagnetic stone and soil and North monopoles (N) by plants, just like a battery. Oxygen also stores South monopoles, it is the most paramagnetic of gases. Most organic or diamagnetic substances store North monopoles.
*Adsorbed – molecules stick to the surface
Over the eons the charge trickles out. The South monopoles in the soil meet the North monopoles of seeds or roots, and with the catalyst of nitrogen and water set growth and photosynthesis on their way. It is the fundamental force behind nature. Round towers then act as stone antennae to collect many more South magneto-electric monopoles than the surrounding soil. They release these monopoles so stimulating better growth in crops around their base. A small model round tower placed in the centre of a non paramagnetic plastic flower pot with seedling radishes planted around the base of the tower will stimulate the seedlings to grow many more fine rootlets than a pot with the same soil but no central round tower. Already a farmer in the north of England is using round tower technology and getting significant increases in crop yield.
The third source of energy is from lightning. There are over 4000 strikes a minute around the world and these set up a very high frequency standing wave of 60,000 Hertz (cycles/sec) in the atmosphere. Callahan has shown that the towers reduce this frequency to various lower frequencies which we can use. The amplification factor or strength of signal is between 150 to 200 times the energy outside. The lowest frequency he has discovered is around 8Hz a minute. Recent American medical research has found this frequency in human bodies and has termed it the primary respiratory function. It is vital to our existence.
There are ELF radio frequencies in the 4 -14 Hz range, or brain – wave region. During meditation our brains emit waves around 8Hz/sec, so these towers would enhance the ability of monks to meditate. These frequencies also have anti-infectious properties.
Frequencies are also found around 2,000 Hz – the electric anaesthesia region – and around 250 Khz the region for electronic heat induction. In the 1920’s some dentists in America were using machines to generate 2,000 Hz for dental extraction. Research in Poland in 1986 shows these types of radiation enhance the auto-immune system and reduce pain. In other words the towers aid healing and praying and, with the presence of crude sheila-na-gigs depicting women in labour, are quite possibly places where women would go to reduce their birth pains.
According to the Head of the International Institute for Biophysics, Professor Fritz-Albert Popp, “Professor Callahan’s discovery concerning the Irish round towers is one of the most important discoveries of the century. The low-energy implications for our health, well-being and nutrition are far reaching.”
to be continued.
Mirrors in the landscape
There is more to come. In antenna technology form follows function, so different shapes will resonate to different frequencies. Obtain an accurate geological survey map of a favourite area and with a hard steel stylus trace and cut the contours into a sheet of carborundum paper. Immerse the sheet in a shallow pan of Epsom salts, and then allow the solution to dry naturally. In a few days an energy map of growing force lines appears. The lines of force will concentrate in the most energetic spots on the carborundum map. Even more strangely if the map is put aside and observed for six months or a year, the crystals of diamagnetic Epsom salts will begin to grow and produce little hills and mountains. It is an accurate template of the real landscape.
“Since the crystals will reproduce and grow, who is to say that the forces of rock and soil are not living!” Callahan gestures to the map. “The beauty of these experiments is that anyone can show how these weak forces can grow and accumulate energy.”
“You can even detect differences in behaviour in various populations, dependent on the paramagnetic nature of the sub-rock. Take Belfast for instance. The sub-rock under that city is basalt which is highly paramagnetic and the sub-rock under Dublin is diamagnetic limestone. We know that Dubliners are more laid-back. It’s the same difference with the population of North and South Vietnam and say between New York and Florida.”
Stone circles, steeples, pyramids – are they all antennae?
Burmese stupas. Many flies (see inset) have stupa or pagoda-tapered sensilla on their antennae.
Callahan’s findings concerning the Irish round towers uncover a major reason for the construction of stone circles, church steeples, pagodas, chedi, minarets and pyramids. They are all antennae – tapping into natural radio energy for healing, meditation and so on.
But whatever man has created as an antenna, nature was there first.
Salisbury cathedral and first inset Norwich cathedral. Cabbage looper moth antennae final inset.
Salisbury cathedral and inset Norwich cathedral both have steeples that mimic the cabbage looper moth antennae whicjh has its own steeple (cone) on it. The cone sensor is considered to be the taste sensor on moths
The antennae sensilla of the vespid wasp (polistes metricus).
The antennae sensilla of the vespid wasp showing pyramidal sensilla and corrugated sensilla – two of the best configurations for focusing and concentrating the paramagnetic force. Although seldom mentioned the vespid hieroglyph is even more common than that of the scarab beetle.
The Egyptians had two hieroglyphics for stone – both take the exact proportions of the building stones found in the Great Pyramid. One hieroglyph is open like this , the other has lines across it like this , the same way Callahan’s model paramagnetic round tower has force lines across it. Both symbols represent the same syllable for stone aner. The hieroglyph for prepared stone is aner sept (two syllables) and is:
It contains a feather for levitation, waves, a mouth (source of diamagnetic breath), a stone (with paramagnetic force lines) and finally a pyramid (Septih, the Dog Star). The little circle is the sign for sand from which the rocks are made, the bar the sign for symmetry, and the three lines ||| for plural (many building stones).
The hieroglyph for black granite is:
This word is similar to prepared granite except the pyramid sign (Septih), for the Dog Star, is replaced by the symbol for a wing (many feathers), a much stronger levitating force than one feather . In other words black granite is a paramagnetic battery for the force. Every Egyptian word for different types of paramagnetic stone e.g. aner-en-bekhenu (porphyry), aner-en-moat (stone of truth), aner-en-rut (sandstone), aner-en-hatch (white limestone) etc., has the symbol with force field lines in it.
The evidence suggests that the knowledge and engineering skills were passed down to the Celts from the Ancient Egyptians. It was in Egypt, perhaps, that man reached a pinnacle of subtle-energy manipulation.
Callahan suggests that the outer limestone portion of the Great Pyramid at Giza serves as a giant condenser lens – as in a photographic enlarger – to diffuse and concentrate paramagnetic waves. The full pagoda construction of the King’s Chamber is made from the most highly paramagnetic of all stone, pink granite. Its succession of stone floors or lenses serves to concentrate the cosmic paramagnetism (like light waves) down into the actual chamber.
Suspended model round towers are very sensitive energy detectors, responding to the paramagnetic-infrared aura of the human body. To prove his theory Callahan took one into the King’s Chamber.
“Usually the model would swing through about 60 or 70 degrees to point to an approaching human. I found that in the King’s Chamber the same model would move 200 – 300 degrees in a steady sweep to the human aura, that’s telekinesis. The sensor was five to ten times as sensitive inside the Pyramid. The model also rocked violently up and down every time a human body approached it, this is in effect levitation.”
Callahan says that since the outer smooth tura limestone casing of the Great Pyramid has been destroyed it will never again stimulate total levitation of a heavy body. “Certainly, in my opinion, one of the reasons for its construction was to induce levitation.” He refers to a beautiful series of ancient stone-wall reliefs which show an Egyptian priestess raising her hands above the outstretched body of a pharaoh. In the next panel the pharaoh is six inches off the couch.
An Egyptian priestess raising her hands above a pharaoah.A pharaoh levitating
An Egyptian priestess raising her hands above the outstretched body of a pharaoah. Another panel right showing a pharaoah levitating off the couch. Similar to the panels referred to in the text.
“Deep in the Great Pyramid the priests breathed out that mixture we call breath – but which the Orientals call the spirit of life.” Callahan explains. “They chanted to modulate the potent vapour which was then energy magnified by the great stone paramagnetic pyramid. Ever so gently they rose in the air. Their very own wall pictographs tell us that this is so.”
The tower is 333 cm high with a roof and has a diameter of 11.5 cm at the bottom.
The Callaghan Tower is available in various versions, as desired, also in a different colour, see picture gallery).
For example, with soil, with pinhole floor or without soil.
Towers of Power can be described as paramagnetic antennaes that collect and focus beneficial cosmic energies and direct them into surrounding soil. The spherical energy field of enhanced magnetism around them stimulates biological processes and enhances the health, vitality and wellbeing of plants and animals in the vicinity. Topsoil production is accelerated and bumper crops are often the result. Plants can go on to have increased sugar levels, which makes them taste sweeter, while they become more resilient, and less pest and frost prone. Up to one hundred acres of coverage has been observed, on a wheat farm on the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, with just one large (4m high) Power Tower.
Towers of Power are an ideal adjunct to organic farming and gardening systems. They are easy and inexpensive to construct. However it should be noted that this is an experimental technology, so there can be no guarantees about possible outcomes.
Right: Pia Lindgrew with her Power Tower on a biodynamic olive farm in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia.
Inspiration behind the Towers of Power
The unique round towers in Ireland have long proved enigmatic, until recently. The American professor Phil Callahan PhD has been investigating round towers for several decades. The local Irish farmers, he discovered, appreciate them for their fertile surroundings. He observed farmers ferry their cows in row boats to Devenish Island so they could eat the lush grass growing around the tower there.
Constructed of paramagnetic stone (that is – stone which is weakly attracted to a magnet), these ancient towers act like giant magnetic antennae, drawing down energies beneficial to soil, says Callahan, well known for his studies of insect ‘antennae’. Soils around round towers are highly paramagnetic and enjoy great fertility.
Callahan believes that the Irish towers act as wave-guides or aerials for extra-low-frequency (ELF) radiation from high above Earth (- Schumann radiation) and the sun . Vital to our health, ELF waves are able to penetrate water and soil, unlike higher frequencies of radiation. To amplify incoming ELF, towers must be paramagnetic, and the effect is enhanced even more when paramagnetic and diamagnetic (i.e. weakly repelled by a magnet) materials are sandwiched together. The Irish towers, often made from granite or basalt stone with wooden floors, were perfect for the task.
Some early Power Towers developed by American Jerry Fridenstine are positioned on Earth energy points to act as Earth acupuncture needles, drawing down the beneficial energies into the soil. Their reported effects are to assist the percolation of water into the soil and reduce its evaporation, therefore extending the growing season; and to improve microbial activity, helping topsoil to build more rapidly.
John Quackenboss of Virginia, USA, developed similar towers.
In 1986 he erected a 6’/ 1.8m high terracotta pipe of 12″/ 30cm diameter filled with basalt gravel; with 5 pipes covering 1000 acres.
He capped the pipes with a cone of concrete, made with basalt gravel and coated in crushed basalt, bringing the total height to 2m. After 6 weeks good effects were observed.
The farm enjoyed increased crop yields, despite drought conditions.
Properties with such Towers report higher rainfall and less moisture evaporation.
There are now hundreds of such Towers on Australian farms.
A Tower that Alanna Moore constructed in Wanneroo, Western Australia, on a 7 acre market garden would send ‘tingles down the spine’ of farmer Gary de Piazzi whenever he passed by. “Cropping on the sandy coastal plain is a bit like hydroponics, because of the lack of most nutrients there”, says Gary, who wanted to reduce dependance on chemical inputs, especially in the winter wet season, when moulds develop quickly in vegetables. After the Tower went up in 1994, at a carefully selected position, and he had spread paramagnetic rock dust all over the cropping land, the next winter was particularly wet, with Perth’s main Mundaring dam spilling over. But Gary didn’t need to use fungicide and his vegetables were more robust than ever!
The standard size of the tower is one royal cubit of approximately 52.5 cm.
We observe a radius of action which corresponds to about 20 times its height,
this can be less or more, depending on its geobiological position and local energy context.
- Small tower of 26 cm, diameter 6 cm = radius of action 5 m
- 52.35 cm royal cubit tower, 10 cm diameter = 10 m radius of action
- 1.50 m tower (sandstone pipe) = 30 m radius of action
Indoor and outdoor use.
Strongly improves vital energy, schumann waves and harmony all around, for the well-being of all living organisms, plants, beneficial micro-organisms, earthworms, birds, insects, animals, humans.
The use of the round tower has a complementary action to all the other electroculture applications and can therefore be used simultaneously.
The cone of the hat of the tower is 51 degrees of angle, this is the same angle that we find in the Nubian pyramid with the golden number between the two edges which are made from the top. We also find the measurements of the golden ratio in the tower.
The round tower originates from our knowledge of the round towers found in Ireland,
Phil Callahan, a radio technician and entomologist scientist has written several books about the benefits of these towers on the fertility of the surrounding land and how to do it.
John Tyndall, (born August 2, 1820, Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, Ireland—died December 4, 1893, Hindhead, Surrey, England), Irish experimental physicist who, during his long residence in England, was an avid promoter of science in the Victorian era.
Tyndall was born into a poor Protestant Irish family. After a thorough basic education he worked as a surveyor in Ireland and England (1839–47). When his ambitions turned from engineering to science, Tyndall spent his savings on gaining a Ph.D. from the University of Marburg, Germany (1848–50), but then struggled to find employment.
In 1853 Tyndall was appointed professor of natural philosophy at the Royal Institution, London. There he became a friend of the much-admired physicist and chemist Michael Faraday, entertained and instructed fashionable audiences with brilliant lecture demonstrations (rivaling the biologist T.H. Huxley in his popular reputation), and pursued his research. An outstanding experimenter, particularly in atmospheric physics, Tyndall examined the transmission of both radiant heat and light through various gases and vapours. He discovered that water vapour and carbon dioxide absorb much more radiant heat than the gases of the atmosphere and argued the consequent importance of those gases in moderating Earth’s climate—that is, in the natural greenhouse effect. Tyndall also studied the diffusion of light by large molecules and dust, known as the Tyndall effect, and he performed experiments demonstrating that the sky’s blue colour results from the scattering of the Sun’s rays by molecules in the atmosphere.
Tyndall was passionate and sensitive, quick to feel personal slights and to defend underdogs. Physically tough, he was a daring mountaineer. His greatest fame came from his activities as an advocate and interpreter of science. Tyndall, in collaboration with his scientific friends in the small, private X Club, urged greater recognition of both the intellectual authority and practical benefits of science. He was accused of materialism and atheism after his presidential address at the 1874 meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, when he claimed that cosmological theory belonged to science rather than theology and that matter had the power within itself to produce life. In the ensuing notoriety over this “Belfast Address,” Tyndall’s allusions to the limitations of science and to mysteries beyond human understanding were overlooked. Tyndall engaged in a number of other controversies—for example, over spontaneous generation, the efficacy of prayer, and Home Rule for Ireland.
1820 – 1893
John Tyndall ranks as one of Ireland’s most successful scientists and educators. He reached the pinnacle of 19th century science and counted amongst his friends and collaborators many of the best-known scientists of that century. Born in Leighlinbridge, County Carlow, his early education has been likened to the “hedge school” variety, but the expert tutelage of his teacher, John Conwill, ensured he had a solid foundations in mathematics, English composition, drawing and surveying.
He remained at school in Leighlinbridge until he was 17 or 18, unusual at the time, and then was employed as a surveyor by the Ordnance Survey of Ireland. He worked in Carlow, Youghal and Kinsale but in 1842 transferred to the English survey and re-located to Preston. While there he became interested in continuing education and attended night classes at the local Mechanics Institute. In 1847 he became a mathematics teacher at the Queenwood School in Hampshire, where with the chemist Edward Frankland, they established the first widely-used school teaching laboratory. They both travelled to Marburg, Germany, in 1848, to study for the newly-established PhD degree with Robert Bunsen (he of the Bunsen burner).
Tyndall completed his PhD in two years and returned to England, seeking various academic positions. Although initially unsuccessful, he displayed tenacity and focus and after a series of short-term positions and continued teaching at Queenwood, in 1853 landed the Professorship of Natural Philisophy at the Royal Institution in London. He would eventually succeed (in 1867) Michael Faraday as the Superintendent of the Royal Institution.
At the Royal Institution, Tyndall’s primary responsibility was for the delivery of scientific lectures to the public. He was an excellent educator, practical demonstrator of scientific phenomena and populariser of science. He displayed great skill at making difficult scientific topics understandable to the layman. He became extremely well known and much sought-after and later, in the 1870s, toured the USA delivering public lectures which drew packed houses. Tyndall’s scientific interests spanned heat, sound, light and environmental phenomena. Amongst his many achievements, perhaps he is best known for the explanation of why the sky is blue – the scattering of light by small particles suspended in the atmosphere. This colour is known as Tyndall Blue. His major scientific interest was the study of the interaction of light with matter, especially gases. He studied the absorption of infrared light by gases found in the atmosphere: he developed the first double beam spectrophotometer for this task (described by some as the first opto-electronic device), and made the first studies of atmospheric pollution in London.
He developed a practical demonstration of the propagation of light though a tube of water via multiple internal reflections. This he referred to as the light-pipe, which was a forerunner of the optical fibre used in modern communications technology. Tyndall’s rigorous experimental approach was embodied in the optical methods he developed for measurement of particles, based on the light scattering idea (the Tyndall Effect). Using these methods he could make simple checks on the purity and cleanliness of purified air. This ability enabled him, following correspondence with Louis Pasteur, to resolve the great debate in biology at the time: he demonstrated that spontaneous generation of life did not occur and that bacteria, or germs, did exist. He subsequently invented a method for the destruction of bacteria in food, called Tyndallisation, which is more effective than Pasteurisation.
He invented the first fireman’s respirator; was a keen mountaineer and glaciologist; was a member of the X Club and a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Further details on Tyndall can be found in:
The Ascent of John Tyndall: Victorian Scientist, Mountaineer, and Public Intellectual. Roland Jackson, Oxford University Press, 2018.
John Tyndall – Essays on a Natural Philisopher.Edited by W.H. Brock, N.D. McMillan and R.C. Mollan, Royal Dublin Society, 1981.
Life and Work of John Tyndall. A.S. Eve and C.H. Creasey, Macmillan & Co., London, 1945.
Fascinating information thanks.
By great synchronicity Murielle found the perfect piece of capping stone on a beach in Sligo, it’s a great shape and seems to be basalt. She located the perfect spot for the pipe, I think it looks great, as far south in the garden as possible and in a nice sheltered location.