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.