Interesting Facts and History about NUI Galway

Queen's College Galway
  • NUI Galway was established by the Colleges (Ireland) Act in 1845.
  • The University was first known as Queens College Galway and along with it its sister colleges in Cork and Belfast, was established to provide non-denominational university education to Ireland’s emerging middle class.
  • The College opened its doors to its first intake of 68 students on 30th October 1849. At the time, the College comprised three faculties, Arts (including Literary and Science divisions), Law and Medicine, as well as a School of Engineering & Agriculture.
  • The Quadrangle building, built in local limestone in a Tudor Gothic architectural style, is modelled on Christ Church at the University of Oxford.
  • Reverend Kirwan held a Doctorate of Divinity and was the first President of Queen's College Galway from 1845-1849.


Notable Alumni from the world of Politics

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins
  • In November 2012, Michael D. Higgins, NUI Galway graduate and Adjunct Professor with the Irish Centre for Human Rights, was elected the ninth President of Ireland. President Higgins entered the University as a student in 1962; serving as President of the Student Council; and going on to become a lecturer in Sociology & Politics for many years.
  • The current Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D.
  • Former Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore T.D.
  • Former Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte T.D.
  • Attorney General, Máire Whelan
  • Minister of State at Department of Foreign Affairs, Seán Sherlock T.D.
  • Former Irish Defence Forces Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán McCann

Honorary Graduates

Nelson Mandela
  • Nelson Mandela, Former President of South Africa
  • Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State
  • Gabriel Byrne, actor
  • Enya, singer
  • Anjelica Huston, actress
  • Fionnula Flanagan, actress
  • Christy O’Connor Snr and Jnr, golfers
  • Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, GAA commentator
  • Margaret Atwood, author

Notable Alumni from the world of the Arts

Martin Sheen
  • Mick Lally, actor and co-founder of the Druid Theatre Galway
  • Marie Mullen, actress and co-founder of the Druid Theatre Galway
  • Seán McGinley, actor
  • Garry Hynes, Director and co-founder of the Druid Theatre Galway
  • Siobhán McKenna, actress
  • In 2006, acclaimed actor and political activist Martin Sheen attended NUI Galway as a Visiting Student.

Graduates: 1845-1942

Alice Perry
  • Sir Joseph Larmor (1857-1942), the notable physicist who went on the prestigious post of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at University of Cambridge.
  • Alexander Anderson (1858-1936), noted astronomer and physicist graduated from Galway with an MA in 1881. Alexander Anderson is widely credited as the first person to suggest the existence of black holes.
  • George Johnstone Stoney, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Galway from 1852-1857, coined the term ‘ electron’ to describe the fundamental unit of electrical charge, and hiscontributions to research in this area laid the foundations for the eventual discovery of the particle by J.J. Thomson in 1897.
  • A.G. Melville (1819-1901), natural historian and author of the celebrated work on the extinction of the Dodo.
  • Professor William King, Professor of Geology at Queen's College Galway, proposed in 1864 to formally designate Neanderthal people as a separate species from ourselves (Homo neanderthalensis). He was the first scientist, and one of a handful since, to name a new fossil human species.
  •  J.E. Cairnes (1823-1875), distinguished economist, whose influential work 'The Slave Power' shaped the thinking of notable intellectuals of the time including Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Karl Marx.
  • Alice Perry graduated from the college in 1906 . Alice is believed to be the first female Engineering graduate in the world.
  • Michael O’Shaughnessy (1864-1934), former Chief Engineer of San Francisco. As City Engineer, O'Shaughnessy commissioned the design and construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the building of new infrastructure for the city after the disastrous earthquake and fires of 1906.

Olympian Graduates

Olive Loughnane
  • Olive Loughnane, walker and World Championships gold medalist
  • Paul Hession, sprinter
  • Alan Martin, rower
  • Cormac Folan, rower