Ball | Robert | 1802-1857 | naturalist, president of the Geological Society of Ireland

Biographical Information

Occupation, Sphere of Activity

Robert Ball (1802-1857), the Irish naturalist, was educated at Ballitore, County Kildare, by a certain Mr White, who is said to have supported the child's early inquisitiveness and interest in natural history. Aged 22, Ball showed his belief in public service, by accepting appointment as a magistrate.

The years 1827-1852 were spent as a civil servant in the under-secretary's office in Dublin. He was repeatedly refused promotion because he was considered to be too good at his job to be moved. He continued scientific work in his free time and went on scientific expeditions during his holidays. Eventually, he was pushed into retirement because his superiors disapproved of their employee carrying out scientific work.

Ball held a number of positions in Irish learned societies, and he was also director of the museum at Trinity College, Dublin, to which he gave his considerable collection of zoological specimens. The College awarded him an honorary doctorate in gratitude for this.

Ball wrote no books, but he published a number of papers, on the subject of fossil bears found in Ireland, the remains of oxen found in bogs, and other topics in the field of zoology.


Robert Ball was the father of astronomer and mathematician, Sir Robert Sawell Ball (1840-1913).

Other Significant Information


Honours, Qualifications and Appointments

1824: Appointed Magistrate

1827-1852: Appointed Civil Servant, office of the Under-Secretary

1844: Appointed Director, Trinity College Dublin Museum

1850: Awarded honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) Degree, Trinity College Dublin

1851: Appointed Secretary, Queen's University of Ireland


List of sources for the biographical information:

Lee, Sidney, Dictionary of National Biography, vol I, (London, Smith, Elder & Co, 1908)