Reverend Nicholas Callan (1799 - 1864)

Rev. Nicholas J. Callan (1799 - 1864)


IEEE Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing


Callan's Pioneering Contributions to Electrical Science and Technology

The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (The IEEE), the world's largest professional association for the advancement of technology, initiated a Milestones program in 1983 to honour significant achievements in the history of electrical and electronics engineering. In March of 2006, the IEEE accepted a proposal to have the scientific contributions of Irish Scientist, Rev Nicholas Callan, recognised as an IEEE historic milestone in electrical engineering.

To mark the occasion a permanent display has been placed in the foyer of the Electronic Engineering and Bio-Sciences Building at Maynooth University, together with a bronze plaque presented by the IEEE. The plaque was unveiled by Michael Lightner, President of the IEEE, at a dedication ceremony on the evening of the 5th September 2006.

IEEE Milestone Plaque

The citation on the plaque reads: "Callan's Pioneering Contributions to Electrical Science and Technology 1836

Reverend Nicholas Callan (1799 - 1864), professor of Natural Philosophy at Saint Patrick's College Maynooth, contributed significantly to the understanding of electrical induction and the development of the induction coil. He did this through a series of experiments that made the inductive transient phenomena visibly clear. The apparatus used in these experiments was replicated in other laboratories."

Reverend Nicholas Callan (1799 - 1864), the first Irish Scientist to achieve this recognition, was a priest and professor of Natural Philosophy at Saint Patrick's College Maynooth in the 1800s. He was a pioneer in the development of electrical science and made many significant contributions to the field including the invention of the induction coil, the forerunner to the modern day transformer and a key component in many electronic devices such as car ignition systems and camera flashes. 

For a brief account of Callan's research see the History of Electrochemistry, Electricity and Electronics website developed by Prof. E. Katz at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
You can view a pdf version of the page here:  Callan_history_chem



Additional information on Callan can be found in the various documents and links listed below. These were compiled as part of the Milestone nomination process.