Remembering William James MacNeven – Irish Revolutionaries
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Remembering William James MacNeven

Remembering William James MacNeven

Born in Galway in 1763 he came from a wealthy landowning Catholic family.

Because of the penal laws in Ireland, he was educated in Austria where he studied as a physician, in 1784 he returned to Ireland to open a practice in Dublin.

MacNeven was a founding member of the Dublin branch of the United Irishmen in 1791.

MacNeven was arrested and imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol in 1797 and then sent to Fort George in Scotland until 1802, he was released but exiled from Ireland.

Upon his release, he went to France to seek a meeting with Napoleon about the possibility of the French sending troops to Ireland.

Disappointed with his mission he travelled to New York in 1805 where he lectured in the college of physicians & surgeons.

In 1808, he received the appointment of professor of midwifery. In 1810, at the reorganization of the school, he became the professor of chemistry, and in 1816 was appointed in addition to the chair of materia medica.

In 1826 with six of his colleagues, he resigned his professorship because of a misunderstanding with the New York Board of Regents, and accepted the chair of materia medica in Rutgers Medical College, a branch of the New Jersey institution of that name, established in New York as a rival to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The school at once became popular because of its faculty, but after four years was closed by legislative enactment on account of interstate difficulties. The attempt to create a school independent of the regents resulted in a reorganization of the University of the State of New York.

MacNeven's best-known contribution to science is his "Exposition of the Atomic Theory" (New York, 1820), which was reprinted in the French Annales de Chimie.

In 1821 he published with emendations an edition of Brande's "Chemistry" (New York, 1829).

Some of his purely literary works, his "Rambles through Switzerland" (Dublin, 1803), his "Pieces of Irish History" (New York, 1807), and his numerous political tracts attracted wide attention.

MacNeven died in New York on July 12th 1841 and is affectionately known as "The Father of American Chemistry".

MacNeven is buried on the Riker Farm in the Astoria section of Queens, New York. He has an obelisk monument commemorated for him in the Trinity Church, located between Wall Street and Broadway, New York.

Because of the penal laws in Ireland, he was educated in Austria where he studied as a physician, in 1784 he returned to Ireland to open a practice in Dublin.


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