Flashes of brilliance: The cutting edge of Irish science

Flashes of brilliance: The cutting edge of Irish science 

Dick Ahlstrom 

Dublin, Ireland: Royal Irish Academy 2006 | 174 pp | €16.99 (HB) + DVD | ISBN 1904890156 

Reviewed by Rob Henderson

Flashes of brilliance  is the first anthology of current Irish scientists. Science is obviously on the up in Ireland, with the available research funding the envy of scientists in many other countries. This has partly come about through Ireland’s national development plan and technology foresight initiative, which have led to the setting up of new funding bodies and an emphasis on the two key areas of biotechnology and information and communications technology. 

The book consists of 75 two-page profiles of the men and women whose work is transforming science in Ireland today - bioinformaticist Des Higgins, bioengineer Patrick Prendergast, nutritionist Michael Gibney, nanochemist Donald Fitzmaurice, physicist Michael Coey, and biotechnologist Martin Clynes, to name but a few. The range of the research covered is breathtaking - is there any scientific discipline the Irish are not excelling in these days? 

Flashes of brilliance  is an extremely well-designed, colourfully illustrated volume, written by the science editor of the Irish Times. In fact the profiles gathered together in this volume originally appeared in the pages of the newspaper from 2002 to date. It is written in a style that makes even the most theoretical and technically difficult concepts understandable to non-experts. I found myself turning from one profile to the next, finding things of interest on nearly every page and following the many weblinks for further information.  

Flashes of brilliance  is good value for money, especially as a tie-in documentary DVD screened on Irish television is included. This DVD allows the people featured in the book to speak for themselves and to show their research in action in an informative and enjoyable way. 

Ireland is certainly doing its bit towards the ’knowledge-based society’ promulgated under the Lisbon agreement (see Chemistry World, June 2006, p50) and this book is highly recommended to anyone interested in cutting-edge scientific research.