Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Samuel Haughton

(December 21, 1821 - October 31, 1897)

A copy of hand painted portrait of Samuel Haughton from Great Irish People website.

Samuel Haughton, Irish scientific writer, the son of James Haughton (1795—1873), was born at Carlow on the 21st of December 1821. to Sarah Hancock, whoes father was a successful linen merchant in Lisburn. His father, the son of a Quaker, but himself a Unitarian, was an active philanthropist, a strong supporter of Father Theobald Mathew, a vegetarian, and an anti-slavery worker and writer. After a distinguished career in Trinity College, Dublin, Samuel was elected a fellow in 1844. He was ordained priest in 1847, but seldom preached. In 1851 he was appointed professor of geology in Trinity College, and this post he held for thirty years.

The house where Samuel Haughton was born on Burrin Street. Carlow. Also in the picture is the Burrin Bridge and the spire if St. Marys C of I Church in Church Street.

He began the study of medicine in 1859, and in 1862 took the degree of M.D. in the university of Dublin. He was then made registrar of the Medical School, the status of which he did much to improve, and he represented the university on the General Medical Council from 1878 to 1896. He was elected F.R.S. in 1858, and in course of time Oxford conferred upon him the Hon. degree of D.C.L., and Cambridge and Edinburgh that of LL.D. He was a man of remarkable knowledge and ability, and he communicated papers on widely different subjects to various learned societies and scientific journals in London and Dublin.

He wrote on the laws of equilibrium and motion of solid and fluid bodies (1846), on sun-heat, terrestrial radiation, geological climates and on tides. He wrote also on the granites of Leinster and Donegal. and on the cleavage and joint-planes in the Old Red Sandstone of Waterford (1857-1858). He was president of the Royal Irish Academy from 1886 to 1891, and for twenty years he was secretary of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland. He died in Dublin on the 3rd of October 1897 at the age of seventy six.

Source: William Haughton & Dr. Richard E. Haughton :


LL.D = Doctor of Law ... from the Latin: Legum Doctor. The double "L" is because plural abbreviations in Latin are formed by the double letters.
F.D.S. = Fellow of the Royal Society.
D.C.L. = Doctor of Civil Law

Irish Criminology

(Vol. 1) Last of the Betagii and (Vol. 6) The Penology of Samuel Haughton are special. The forgotten execution of the Catholic housewife, Mary Daly, and her young Protestant lover, Joseph Taylor, in 1903, was not such a simple event in the criminal calendar of ‘Queen’s County’, and (10.Vol. 1) Last of the Betagii demonstrates it.

Coincidentally, Dr Samuel Haughton was born within a few miles of where Mary Daly grew up. Of Killeshin and Quaker origins, Haughton’s family straddled the Carlow/Laois border. He lived in Burrin Street, Carlow, where his house can still be seen. It stands in a line between Carlow Castle and what was the old (and the new) prison. But Haughton’s story is different. And it belongs where we find it – right in the midst of the nineteenth century struggle for a higher form of civilization. A contemporary and adversary of Darwin, Haughton was one of the great Victorians. (10.Vol. 6) The Penology of Samuel Haughton is a short (unfinished) study describing the great scientist’s preoccupation with capital punishment. Haughton might well have been regarded as ‘Father of the Drop’, had his endeavours not taken a tragic/comic turn.

Source: Irish Criminology  Page:

The Carlow Calendar

The Carlow Calendar is a compilation of executions occurring in Carlow County over the period of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Inspired by friends, it unearths in a potted way the concerns of past murderers and how they were dealt with in what came to be – after the 1798 rebellion – one of the least disturbed counties in Ireland. It started with a few fellows expounding on Lucy Sly, the last hanging of a woman in Carlow, then a few other names were being dropped in rapid inaccurate succession. The upshot is the compilation of this record, which, if it doesn’t do much else, it will help – one hopes – to keep the record straight.

Source: Irish Criminology  Page:

"Haughton's Drop."

Carlow is a small county, the second smallest in Ireland. Its land is productive. It is sometimes referred to (in a tongue-in-cheek manner) as the county with more than its share of the "nearly famous." In years past those fortunate enough to own large holdings were prosperous and such people found time to devote their mental energies to matters other than managing their estates. Many were wealthy enough to employ professional managers while they got on with their pet, often unconventional, projects. Others, from the merchant class, in what was, and to a great extent still is, a prosperous corner of Ireland, made enough money to involve themselves in similar activities. Samuel HAUGHTON, for example was one of the eccentrics who abounded in Ireland in the Victorian era. Born in Carlow, he was a scientist and mathematician and graduated in mathematics from Trinity College before turning his attention to medicine. He is best remembered for a discovery which combined all three disciplines at which he was adept. It took some time to work out, but in the end his formula was of benefit to a tiny percentage of the population, although is stopped short of saving their lives. He worked out a mathematical, scientific and medical computation known as "Haughton's Drop." The "drop" was not one of medicinal liquid but an instruction to the hangman when dealing with prisoners sentenced to death. Until this time, the unfortunate wretches sentenced to be "hanged by the neck until dead" usually suffered from a slow and agonizing process of strangulation, something which the mob that gathered for executions thoroughly enjoyed. "Haughton's Drop," however, took the "fun" out of execution day. It determined the precise length of rope; the exact depth of fall which a condemned man of a certain weight required in order to die instantly rather than linger half-alive in front of his viewers.

Source: This 'N That - Carlow, Jean R. c2008

Birthplace of Rev. Samuel Haughton, Burrin Street, Carlow Town.

After the ceremony at Trinity College “the remains were deposited in the hearse ….and the funeral then proceeded to Kingsbridge Railway Terminus Dublin for Carlow” the place of his birth. The train arrived at 1.30pm in Carlow Town and “..the coffin was carried to the hearse by near relatives of the lamented deceased. On route through the town to the family burial ground at Killeshin the business houses were closed and blinds drawn in private dwellings as a mark of respect to the memory of one whose name and family have been creditably associated with the professional and commercial history of Carlow for considerably over a century”.

Rev. Samuel Haughton was born at the family home beside the River Burrin Bridge in 1821 to a well known local Quaker family. He was “educated at Trinity College, he distinguished himself as a student, especially in science and mathematics and in 1844 at the age of 23 he was elected a Fellow of the College. From 1851 to 1881 he held the chair of Professor of Geology and in latter years he was elected a Senior Fellow”.

A plaque erected on the wall outside the house in memory of Samuel Haughton F.D.S.

Professor David Spearman, Past President of the Royal Irish Academy unveiling the Haughton Plaque in Carlow on Sunday August 25th 2005.

“The interest which he took in the Medical School of Trinity College will be best understood by those who can appreciate the great improvements which have been effected in connection with, chiefly at his suggestion. He was the author of a number of interesting mathematical and scientific papers … and of his more ambitious works, perhaps, the best known is his book on “The Principles of Least Action in Nature Illustrated by Animal Mechanics”.  His knowledge of science was invariably used as occasion required to meet arguments of sceptics and to vindicate the Christian doctrine”

Source: Carlow County Museum.


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© 2001 County Carlow Irish Genealogy Project. IGP

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