Algar, Joseph (1890–1958), chemist, was born 15 April 1890 at 22 Arnott St, Dublin, eldest of eight children of Herbert Okell Algar, originally from Warwickshire, and Celia Algar (née Kelly) from Dublin. His father, who converted to catholicism on his marriage, was a master tailor who made uniforms for the British army at a workshop in Kildare St. In the early 1920s he moved to Clery's department store, where he made vestments for Irish bishops. The family lived at 64 Beechwood Avenue, Ranelagh, and Joseph went to secondary school at CBS Synge St., where he achieved distinction in state exams. His interest in chemistry was no doubt influenced by the unorthodox and stimulating practical classes of his science teacher. In 1907 he received a £50 a year Bishop's scholarship and began a degree in arts at UCD, with the intention of studying chemistry. His school friend Thomas J. Nolan (qv), for whom he was later best man and lifelong friend, had received the same scholarship the previous year. At that time there was no separate faculty of science, and due to the paucity of practical equipment the course was solely text-based. In 1910 he graduated with a BA in chemistry and experimental physics from the newly established NUI, without ever having performed a single practical experiment. He was awarded a research scholarship in chemistry, began original experimental research and received his M.Sc. (1912), after which he was appointed demonstrator. Among his student contemporaries were Joseph Doyle (qv), John J. Dowling, and Donn Byrne (qv). In 1917 he was awarded a D.Sc. for his work on di-ketones and di-flavone derivatives. He was appointed assistant lecturer in 1919, and played a considerable role in building up the new department of chemistry. During the arrest and imprisonment (1918–19) of his UCD colleague and Sinn Féin council member, Thomas Dillon (qv), he voluntarily agreed to undertake Dillon's teaching duties. In 1931, when Thomas J. Nolan succeeded Hugh Ryan (qv) as professor of chemistry, Algar was appointed to the chair of chemistry applied to medicine, the title of which was later changed to chair of organic chemistry.
He published many papers on organic chemistry, particularly on constituents of plants. The Algar–Flynn method of oxidation of chalkones to flavanols became a classic method for building the flavone ring system, the name of which was later changed to ‘the Algar–Flynn–Oyamada reaction’, to include the Japanese worker who discovered it independently. John P. Flynn had been a fellow student and was a chemist at the Thurles and Tuam sugar factories. Algar's precision and clarity as a teacher of chemistry gave him a reputation as one of the outstanding lecturers in the college. Outside the university he was elected MRIA and served on the Academy's council, as well as on the committee of science of the RDS. He was also an active member of the Chemical Association of Ireland, and its joint hon. secretary 1922–8.
A shy man, he did not seek the limelight but was popular among students and staff, to whom he was always known as ‘Joe’. He was fond of good food and used to eat and entertain often in Jammet's restaurant, Nassau Street. In later years he became good friends with the singer John McCormack (qv), who lived around the corner from his house at 85 St Helen's Road, Booterstown. His brother William Algar was Ireland's permanent representative and vice-president of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal, Canada. Joseph retired 30 September 1958 after more than fifty years with UCD. Three months later, after a prolonged period of bad health, he died 23 December 1958, and his funeral was marked by the huge attendance of his many friends; he never married. A laboratory was named after him at the department of chemistry, UCD.