Rev Nicholas Callan
Rev Nicholas Callan (1799 – 1864)
The Reverend Nicholas Callan was born near Ardee, Co. Louth and was Professor of Natural Philosophy (Physics) at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, from 1826 until his death.
In 1836, Nicholas Callan invented the induction coil. This was the forerunner of today’s transformers without which we would not have limitless electricity at our fingertips – and where would we be without it? Callan also invented new kinds of batteries and patented a method for protecting iron from rust.
Nicholas Callan's experimental coils produced almighty voltages, and he tested these on “volunteer” seminarians. One of his most famous volunteer voltmeters was William Walsh, later to be the famous Archbishop of Dublin. The unfortunate young Walsh was rendered unconscious, but recovered.
Nicholas Callan was something of a showman, arranging a tug-of-war between his powerful electromagnet and a team of students. The students were winning until he turned off the current, when they fell in a heap. He also electrocuted an unfortunate turkey. He was a brilliant scientist and inventor, and “a very holy priest”.