Who was Mary Ward? She was an astronomer, author, naturalist (studies the patterns of nature, the interconnectedness with plants, trees, birds, etc..) and artist. Mary nee King was born in 1827 in Co. Offaly. She was educated at home with her sisters as most girls were at that time. However, her education was slightly different, she was from a distinguished research based/scientific family.

She was interested in nature at a young age and as a small child she collected insects. She would use a magnifying glass to study the insects and then she would draw them. Ward’s father bought her a microscope. It was the beginning of her lifelong passion. (the microscope was invented about 1600’s). Ward made her own slides and prepared her own specimens. At the time Universities would not accept women.

At this time in history roughly 50% of women could not read. Ward had a passion for learning, discovering & understanding. Thankfully her family encouraged her to explore & create what she wanted to. Ward had so many questions and wanted to learn all she could about science. She found information anyway she could. She would write to scientists and asked them about their work/research.

When Ward wrote her first book, Sketches with the microscope, she thought that no one would print it because of her gender and lack of credentials. The book was reprinted eight times with a new title, A World of Wonders Revealed by the Microscope. A new edition was published in 2019 by the Offaly Historical and Archaeological Society.

Tragically Ward was killed in an accident in 1869. Ward and her husband were traveling in an experimental steam- powered car. (slow to start, water had to be boiled to generate the steam, it used coal so it’s exhaust was very dirty, they went about 20 miles per hour) Ward was unfortunately thrown from the car and fell under its wheel and died almost instantly. The fatal injury was a broken neck.

Ward was the first automobile death in Ireland, she was only 42. Since then we have greatly advanced in our automobiles, cars can go 300 miles per hour. However, we have also sadly increased our automobile casualties every year also. Worldwide over a million people are killed from traffic accidents. In Ireland there were 148 deaths last year from car crashes. Two major factors I think that are involved in crashes are speed & alcohol.

Ward was a remarkable woman, she made huge discoveries at a time in history when girls/women weren’t even accounted for. It’s important to note that Ward’s family was very wealthy and that she was from a privileged lineage. Ward was born with a curiosity, determination, and passion for life.

Gaelic for the Month
Don’t drive faster than your guardian angel can fly…
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