Ball, Valentine (1843–95), geologist, was born in Dublin, second son and fourth child of Robert Ball (qv), naturalist, and Amelia Ball (née Hellicar). He was educated at a private school in Chester, at Rathmines School, and at TCD (BA 1864, MA 1872). Ball's major contribution to science was twofold, based on work carried out on the subcontinent of India and later in Ireland. After serving (1860–64) as a clerk in the Four Courts, Dublin, he was one of a number of Irish geologists employed by the Geological Survey of India under Thomas Oldham (qv) and was primarily responsible for surveying coalfields and other deposits of economically important minerals. He discovered several coalfields in west Bengal and the central provinces, advised on the route for the Bombay–Calcutta railway, and was a seasoned traveller, noted for his visits to very remote parts of the subcontinent. The bulk of his written communications was published in official Geological Survey of India periodicals, although some papers appeared in Irish and British journals, including those published by the RDS. A valuable synopsis of his Indian work was published as The economic geology of India (1881); aspects of his work and travels were also written up in an autobiographical work, Jungle life in India (1880). He returned to Dublin in 1881 to take the chair of geology and mineralogy at TCD, a position he held for only two years. Appointed (1883) director of the Institutions of Science and Art, which included the museum (now the National Museum of Ireland), the library (NLI) and the botanic gardens, he embarked on an ambitious programme of reorganisation and development. He arranged for the RIA and TCD to deposit their considerable collections of Irish antiquities and Polynesian artifacts respectively in the museum, and oversaw the planning of the new museum complex at Kildare St., completed in 1890, for which he produced a guide. He resigned in 1895, on the grounds of ill-health, shortly before he died; he lived at 28 Waterloo Road, Dublin, from 1881 until his death (15 June 1895).
Ball was made a fellow of Calcutta University (1872); FRS (1882); president of the Royal Geological Society of Ireland (1882–3); MRIA (1883); LL.D. (h.c.; Dubl.) (1889); honorary secretary of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland; and CB. He married (1879) Mary, eldest daughter of John Stewart Moore of Moyarget, Co. Antrim; they had at least five children, some of whom died young. He is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin, close to his brother Sir Charles Ball (qv) (1851–1916), the eminent surgeon. His collections are in the National Museum of Ireland, together with a marble bust. A collection of his Indian lichens are in the Herbarium, National Botanic Gardens, Dublin, and his letters are in Kew.