Professor Patrick M Quinlan
We honour today Professor Patrick M Quinlan whose pioneering faith in Mathematical Physics helped to sustain that strong mathematical tradition at University College, Cork which lives on to this day.
A N Whitehead once commented:
'Philosophy is akin to poetry and both of them seek to express that ultimate good sense which we term civilisation. In each there is reference to form beyond the direct meaning of words. Poetry allies itself to metre, philosophy to mathematic pattern'.
The philosophic dimension of Professor Quinlan's work expresses itself in the practical work of the world. His huge influence in attracting, developing and supporting students of mathematical physics at University College, Cork over many years is unsurpassed. Professor Quinlan's interests also have a direct relevance to the bridges, buildings and roads that surround us in increasing number at the present day. The sciences of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics and the link between Mathematics and Civil Engineering have occupied Professor Quinlan for more than six decades. He is well aware of J B S Haldane's wise warning that, "the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose".
The University of Limerick is particularly proud to confer today's honour upon a man whose first home was a farm near Kilmallock, Co Limerick. Professor Quinlan has been a keen supporter of the Limerick Hurling team for most of his life and still pays close attention to the cultural life and sporting achievements of his home county.
Professor Quinlan's long and distinguished academic career properly commenced when he was awarded the NUI travelling studentship in 1945. His completion of the PhD at California Institute of Technology in 1949 proved a turning point in the development of mathematical physics in Ireland, for many of Professor Quinlan's students later followed this same route to professional status. His long connection with research contracts in the United States of America was also initiated at this time.
In 1967, Professor Quinlan was awarded a Higher Doctorate, the DSc from the National University of Ireland and in 1978, he was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy. He was a founder member of the National Committee for Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in 1983.
The research record of Professor Quinlan is outstanding. His development of the Edge Function Method for solving linear boundary value problems has been of great practical importance in the engineering and electronics industries and his publications and conference addresses in these important areas of research have been widely noted.
In 1957 Professor Quinlan was elected by NUI graduates as an Independent member of Seanad Éireann, a position he held for over twenty years. His commitment to public service was shown in his unflinching defence of traditional Irish values and his willingness to take part in many debates on the history, quality and future of the Irish people. He also acted as a member of the NUI Senate, giving generously of time and energy to the administration of the academy.