Nautical Science, Navigation, and the Exploration of the Atlantic – Upcoming conference

Cantino Detail

The XVII Reunion of the International Committee for the History of Nautical Science will take place on October 2 – 4, 2014 in Galway, Ireland, at the Moore Institute, National University of Ireland, Galway.

The theme of the 2014 conference will be: Nautical Science, Navigation, and the Exploration of the Atlantic

The theme will incorporate many ideas, including, but not limited to:

  • The role of nautical science in opening the Atlantic in the Age of the Discoveries and later
  • The transmission of knowledge of the Atlantic through various methods: piloting, experience, literature and propaganda, state institutions, etc.
  • What is the Atlantic? International perspectives
  • The role of the Atlantic in local and national cultures
  • The history of Atlantic exploration

Conference Language: English

Successful applicants should note that presentations should not exceed 30 minutes.

The ICHNS is already in the process of negotiation to publish these papers in an edited, peer-reviewed volume of the conference proceedings.

Moreover, this year sees the presentation of the first Luis de Albuquerque Prize for Outstanding Paper at the conference, which will be chosen by the audience. 

Registration fee for speakers: €30

Please send your submissions to Edward Collins ( with a CV and an abstract of between 150 to 200 words before the end of July 2014. The titles and abstracts will appear on the website once the programme is complete.

[Image: detail from the Cantino planisphere (c.1502), via Wikimedia Commons.]


William Bindon Blood: the first Irish cyclist?

Blood_bicycleThe tricycle pictured here – patented the ‘Dublin Tricycle’ (1876) and regarded by cycling historians as ‘the first practical tricycle’ – was invented by William Bindon Blood, professor of engineering at Queen’s College Galway (1850-1860). The woman shown riding it is Miss Persse of Castleboy, Blood’s sister-in-law and Lady Gregory’s first cousin, who, it was reported, once rode it from Galway to Spiddal and back in a single afternoon.

From a landed background in Rockforest in north Clare, Blood worked as an engineer on several major railway projects before his appointment to the Galway professorship. A leading engineer of his day, he designed the Boyne Viaduct, which had a longer span than any other in the world at the time of its construction. His significant contribution to cycling however has been overlooked.

According to the Irish Cyclist and Athlete (19 March 1890), Professor Blood ‘may fairly be described as the first Irish cyclist,’ having begun cycling to work in Galway in 1852 on a contraption he built of wood, with iron rimmed wheels. Slow and noisy, it must have attracted a lot of ridicule, but he continued to use it throughout his tenure in Galway, and evidently to ponder how it might be improved upon. The following is from an advertisement for its successor of 1876, the ‘Dublin Tricycle’:

After a little practice, this tricycle can be driven with ease at a speed of from five to ten miles an hour, according to the nature of the road and the skill of the rider. There is no difficulty in getting into or out of the seat; and the carriage is perfectly safe, there being no tendency to upset… [It] can be used with ease, not only by gentlemen but also by ladies, as it can be adapted to the requirements of the fair sex by the addition of a lightly-framed apron.

William Bindon Blood 1817-1870Blood later patented a small bicycle, sold as the ‘Blood Pony’, and a cyclometer.

A great engineer and a pioneering cyclist, Blood however was also an unsympathetic and unpopular landlord in his native Clare. The Irish Cyclist reported as follows in 1890: ‘latterly he has been compelled to give up cycling, as he is under police protection, having been fired at by two men with Snider rifles in August last, and again a week or ten days ago.’ Blood would survive a third assassination attempt in 1892, before succumbing to ‘acute bronchitis’ in 1897, in his 80th year.

Paul Duffy, ‘Engineering’, in T. Foley, ed., From Queen’s College to National University; essays on the academic history of QCG/UCG/NUI Galway, Dublin: Four Courts, 1999.

Brian Griffin, Cycling in Victorian Ireland, Dublin: Nonsuch, 2006

The Irish Cyclist and Athlete, March, April 1890

 – John Cunningham

[Images: ‘Miss Persse on her Dublin tricycle, c.1876′; and ‘William Bindon Blood, 1817-1897’.]

Ireland & British Democracy: International Chartism Conference, NUI Galway 4-5 July 2014

Chartism Poster

Here’s one for your summer diaries. On 4-5 July 2014, NUI Galway hosts the 2014 International Chartism Conference. The theme of the conference is Ireland and British Democracy. Details are on the poster above, and inquiries can be directed to Laurence Marley. You can also check out the conference website for further details.