William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse

Charles Mollan

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Manchester University Press 2016,                                                                               Paperback, 368 pages

Astronomy and the castle in nineteenth century Ireland

Edited by Charles Mollan

This is a revealing account of the family life and achievements of the Third Earl of Rosse, a hereditary peer and resident landlord at Birr Castle, County Offaly, in nineteenth-century Ireland, before, during and after the devastating famine of the 1840s. He was a remarkable engineer, who built enormous telescopes in the cloudy middle of Ireland. The book gives details, in an attractive non-technical style which requires no previous scientific knowledge, of his engineering initiatives and the astronomical results, but also reveals much more about the man and his contributions - locally in the town and county around Birr, in political and other functions in an Ireland administered by the Protestant Ascendancy, in the development and activities of the Royal Society, of which he was President from 1848-54, and the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The Countess of Rosse, who receives full acknowledgement in the book, was a woman of many talents, among which was her pioneering work in photography, and the book includes reproductions of her artistic exposures, and many other attractive illustrations.