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. -- .
Charles Mollan is a retired science administrator, editor and publisher, and a historian of Irish science -- .
Preface - Daniel McDowell Introduction - Charles Mollan Succession of the Parsons Family at Birr 1. History of the Parsons family and Birr Castle - The Earl and Countess of Rosse 2. Origin of the 3rd Earl's interest in astronomy - Trevor Weekes 3. Mary, Countess of Rosse (1813-85) - Daniel McDowell, Alison, Countess of Rosse, and David Davison 4. William Parsons' influence on the town and community of Birr - Margaret Hogan 5. Negotiating 'a difficult sectarian terrain': The public life and political opinions of the 3rd Earl of Rosse - Andrew Shields 6. A Consummate Engineer - Charles Mollan 7. Birr Castle observations of non-stellar objects and the development of nebular theories - Wolfgang Steinicke 8. William Parsons and the Irish nineteenth-century tradition of independent astronomical research - Allan Chapman 9. 'A presiding influence': The relations of the 3rd Earl of Rosse with scientific institutions in Britain and Ireland - Simon Schaffer 10. The 3rd Earl of Rosse: An assessment - Trevor Weekes Select bibliography Index -- .