Mary Mulvihill, 1959-2015

Mary Mulvihill (1959-2015) would have added “woman” to the advice of her hero Charles Darwin – “A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life”. Her lifelong habit of making every hour of every day count has left a legacy she could scarcely have imagined when she left Trinity College in 1981 with a first class genetics degree.

The following year, after a stint as a researcher in An Foras Talúntais (now Teagasc), she returned to Trinity and emerged with a masters in statistics that was followed in 1988 by a journalism diploma from Dublin City University. Over the next few years, she wrote regularly for the Irish Times, including biographical articles on historical figures in science. She edited and contributed to Enterprise Ireland’s bi-monthly publication Technology Ireland and moved to broadcasting where she hosted her own science programmes on RTE Radio1 (listen to an example here) and Lyric FM.

Always a lateral thinker when it came to promoting science, her radio work inspired the guided tours she led through her native Dublin. Audio guides, she soon realised, could help her to broaden her scope. The podcasts she produced still take listeners on trips along her beloved Barrow River in Carlow, Dublin’s Botanic Gardens, Meath’s Hill of Tara and more.

While doing this, Mary was assembling her vast encyclopedia of the island’s science heritage, Ingenious Ireland. Few corners of the 32 counties escaped her curiosity. She credits her husband Dr Brian Dolan of NUI-Maynooth with keeping her bike in working order throughout the project, providing access to the remote areas that populate the book’s 500 pages. It might have appeared a crazy idea for one person to attempt, but Mary carried it off with customary panache. Now in its second reprint by Four Courts Press, Ingenious Ireland earned Mary the Irish National Science and Technology Journalist of the Year 2002-03 award.

Ingnenious Ireland republished

Ingenious Ireland takes readers on a magnificent tour of the country’s natural wonders, clever inventions, and historic sites. Richly illustrated and meticulously compiled, Ingenious Ireland introduces readers to the complete history, culture, and landscape of all thirty-two Irish counties.

Ingenious Ireland Guide

Ingenious Ireland is now updated and republished! Read about the project. 

A walking tour was an experience with Mary

Mary’s mission to highlight women’s role in science led to her joining in the formation of Women in Technology and Science in 1990. Her particular interest in women’s historical contributions to science is reflected in her editing, on behalf of WITS, two collections of biographical essays on Irish women scientists and pioneers – Stars, Shells and Bluebells (1997) and Lab Coats and Lace (2009).

A longstanding member of the National Union of Journalists, she became a media trainer and consultant. She served on the Irish Council for Bioethics and was a council member of the Industrial Heritage Association of Ireland.

On International Women’s Day 2015, she led the walk she initiated in 2014 to mark the naming of the Rosie Hackett Bridge. It commemorated the “rebellious lassies” of 1913-16. It was her final tour. Mary Mulvihill died on June 12 with so much done and so much more to do.

In 2016, friends and family set up the Mary Mulvihill Association in her memory. In 2020, Dublin City University, in which her archive is now held, awarded her a posthumous honour for outstanding achievement in Societal Impact.