Haughton, Samuel (1821–97), geologist, physiologist and mathematician, was born 21 December 1821 in Carlow, second of three sons of Samuel Haughton, merchant, and Sarah Haughton (née Hancock). Although of quaker stock, Haughton was brought up within the established church. He entered Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) at the age of sixteen and remained there for the rest of his life. He studied mathematics under James MacCullagh (qv) and graduated 1843 with a gold medal. One year later he was elected to fellowship; he achieved this at the unusually young age of twenty-two, and later in 1847 was ordained, as was then the normal practice for fellows.
Haughton was a polymath virtuoso with interests in mathematics, geology, and medicine. His early research was in mathematics and fluid mechanics and tides, and with John Hewitt Jellett (qv) he edited a volume of MacCullagh's works shortly after his suicide. He was able to deduce the chronology of the battle of Clontarf from tide tables he had compiled. In 1851 he was appointed to the chair of geology at TCD and held this post until his appointment as a senior fellow (1881). His geological research was varied and he published on palaeontology and palaeobotany, petrology and composition of granite, and the petrology of Vesuvian lavas. He also did some early structural geology, working out the strain necessary to deform some Carboniferous bivalves from Co. Cork, and also computed the age of the earth by various methods. He opposed Darwin's theory of evolution and believed that man was a very recent creation.
Haughton also established the Trinity Mining Co., which opened a copper mine at Ardtully, near Kenmare, Co. Kerry, for a short time in the 1850s, but ultimately the venture failed. In 1859 he embarked on medical training at Trinity, and after graduation (1862) developed an interest in animal physiology and movement. He became heavily involved in medical administration, most notably as registrar of the college medical school for over three decades, and as a board member of Sir Patrick Dun's hospital. He is principally remembered today as the author of the scheme that allowed for humane execution by hanging (he proposed lengthening the drop to ensure instantaneous death). With his colleague Joseph Allen Galbraith (qv) he set up (1855) the Indian Civil Service school in Trinity, which trained men for service on the subcontinent; it was closed in 1912. This venture spawned a series of instruction manuals on various scientific subjects (including optics, astronomy, mechanics, geology, tides, the steam engine, and plane trigonometry), which were used in the school and widely elsewhere.
Haughton was elected member of the Royal Irish Academy (MRIA) (1845), fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) (1858), and served as president of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland 1885–90, and as president of the RIA 1886–91. He was awarded a Cunningham medal by the RIA (1848) for work on the motion of solid and fluid bodies, and was the recipient of four honorary degrees. Haughton was also a promoter of the Irish language, having learned it in his youth in Carlow; he was a founder of the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language in 1876 and a member of the Gaelic Union (1882). He died 31 October 1897 at his home, 12 Northbrook Road, Dublin, and is buried in Killeshin churchyard, Co. Carlow. After his death the Haughton House at Dublin Zoo was built in his memory. Two portraits by Sarah Purser (qv) hang in TCD. His geological library is in the department of geology, TCD.
He married (1848) his half-cousin Louisa (née Haughton); they had four sons and two daughters, one of whom died in infancy. One of his sons, William Steele Haughton (qv), went on to a notable career as an orthopaedic surgeon.
More information on this entry is available at the National Database of Irish-language biographies (Ainm.ie).