Burke, James Dominic (1833–1904), Christian Brother and pioneer of technical education, was born in December 1833 in Limerick, eldest among five sons and two daughters of John Burke, cabinet-maker, and Mary Burke (née Ahern). He was educated at the CBS, Sexton St., Limerick. After an apprenticeship with his father, he learned bookbinding. In 1852 he entered the Christian Brothers' noviciate at Mount Sion, Waterford, before being transferred (1852) to North Monastery, Cork, making his perpetual vows (1857), and taking the religious name Dominic. He taught in schools in Cork before being appointed assistant superior (1864) and superior (1878) of North Monastery Schools, also known as Our Lady's Mount. At a time when education was biased towards the classics, he believed that the school curriculum should be responsive to the vocational requirements of its pupils. He expanded the curriculum to include commerce, experimental science, and technical instruction, introducing such subjects as woodcarving, electroplating, and lithograph painting in colours. With well equipped laboratories and workshops, he adopted heuristic teaching methods and is considered to be one of the most notable teachers of the nineteenth century. As an aid to education he organised an Industrial and Art Museum which exhibited specimens of the natural world, scientific apparatus, and working machinery, and demonstrated the processes of manufacture from raw materials to finished product. His school gained a reputation for excellence and attracted many visitors.
An effective populariser of science and technology, he gave public lectures on Sundays in physics and chemistry throughout the 1870s, and as a member of the Cork Literary and Scientific Society he helped to organise conversaziones where scientific principles were experimentally demonstrated by his pupils, an innovation in Irish education. In 1889, to raise money for school maintenance, he organised a bazaar that included an industrial exhibition in which an electric tram (the first to be seen in southern Ireland) and other machines driven by electric motors were exhibited. He supervised the educational programme at the Cork Industrial Exhibition (1883), winning a gold medal for the incorporation of science and its practical applications into the school curriculum. While welcoming the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act, 1878, he campaigned for the inclusion of practical and scientific subjects and gave evidence before seven state commissions on education. He anticipated the methods of technical instruction later adopted by the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (established 1899), and was asked by them to demonstrate their educational programmes at the Cork Exhibition (1902–3). In addition to his other responsibilities, he was appointed president of the Christian Brothers College, Cork (1888); he recruited graduate lay staff, established a broadly based curriculum, and prepared pupils for university. He served as assistant to the superior-general (1891–6) and was president of Cork Scientific Association (1903–4). In celebration of his fifty years service as a Christian Brother (1902), the Burke Memorial School, housing laboratories and lecture halls, was added to the North Monastery School. He wrote necrologies and A history of the Institute of Christian Brothers, and expressed his educational ideas in articles published in the Educational Record of the Christian Brothers, which he was instrumental in launching in 1887. He contributed to the Annals of the North Monastery, Cork 1811–, composed songs for Irish melodies, and published Stray verses by a Christian Brother 1852–1902 (1902). He died 23 March 1904 in Cork and was honoured with a public funeral and buried in the North Monastery cemetery.