Comprising a landmass of barely more than 30,000 square miles, Ireland has spent the last ten millennia producing a hardy and versatile people. The Irish have always exhibited a streak of independence that has given them a cultural imperative to excel is their chosen fields. One would be hard pressed to list all the famous Irish people who have influenced the world. The following is an attempt to list at least a few of the biggest and brightest from the Emerald Isle.
The Irish have always managed to tell a good tale and the annals of Irish writers include such famous notables as Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Nobel laureates, William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney are native Irish sons. The creator of the modern vampire story hails from Ireland. Without Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, the genre of horror fiction would look completely different. Other literary giants from the Irish people include the internationally renown novelist James Joyce and the playwright George Bernard Shaw.
The Irish have always produced fine actors, be they walking the boards on stage or filling the movie and television screens. To list only a few of the greats who have come from Ireland to entertain us on the stage we can name Barry McGovern, Hilton Edwards, the co-founder of the Gate Theatre, and Kate Fahy. With the advent of motion pictures, such luminaries as Richard Harris, Grace Kelly, Patrick McGoohan, Maureen O’Sullivan, Oscar winner Peter O’Toole, and Stuart Townsend have shown their Irish fortitude to become some of the best entertainers the world has seen.
Music has always been a large part of Irish heritage and the list of musicians produced on the island will run to pages. A thumbnail sketch would include Paul Hewson (Bono of U2), Bill Twomey, Vivian Campbell (of the rock band Def Leppard fame), Eithne Ní Bhraonáin better known by her stage name of Enya, John Fogerty of CCR, the classical fluitist James Galway, Bob Geldof, George Harrison of the Beatles, Markéta Irglová, Van Morrison, Gilbert O’Sullivan, and Ian Wilson. As group performers, the Irish take part in all the musical genres although they are best known for making the Celtic style of music and international force to be reckoned with and emulated.
The Irish are great businessmen and their ranks include such notables as Peter Sutherland, Chairman of Goldman Sachs, David O’Reilly the CEO of Chevron Corp., Denis O’Brien of Esat Telecom, J.P. McManus and multimillionaire entrepreneurs, Phil Kelly and Sean Quinn. The Irish businessman who is probably the most well known and beloved is the brewer Arthur Guinness who overcame extreme odds to create what is now Ireland’s signature beer.
While not particularly household names, the Irish have made many contributions to science and technology and have helped form the world as we know it. Nicholas Callan invented the induction coil and developed the principle of the dynamo that allows us to utilize that ubiquitous electrical energy. The Irishman Lucien Bull is known for his advances in not only high-speed photography but the creation of the electrocardiogram (ECG) which has increased the life of countless people. Henry George Ferguson is best known for his work designing the modern farm tractor as well as the development of the three-point hitch that increased the safety of farm implements exponentially.