The School of Physics executive is to recommend to the Provost that the Schrödinger lecture theatre be renamed, and that the annual Schrödinger lecture series be discontinued.
In an email to physics students and staff, Head of School Prof Jonathan Coleman said that signage and photos of Schrödinger will be removed or covered up until College makes a decision on the name change.
“It was decided not to propose naming the theatre after another person at this time and to revert to the original name ‘Physics Lecture Theatre’”, Coleman wrote.
The executive noted at a meeting this week that “the majority of people had not been aware of and were shocked by the reported details of Schrödinger’s personal life and sexual history”.
“There was a diversity of opinion on how the School and College should react”, Coleman continued, “but it was clear that a large majority of both staff and students now favour changing the name the lecture theatre in the Fitzgerald Building that has borne his name since the 1990s”.
Suggestions for a new name included the Walton theatre for Ernest Walton, who is known for splitting the atom. Another possibility is that it be renamed after a female physicist.
Also suggested was the “What Is Life?” theatre, after the series of lectures Schrödinger gave in Trinity in 1943.
However, Coleman said the theatre will not be renamed immediately. “Naming it for another person could well be seen as a tainted honour after it had been previously been named for such a controversial person as Schrödinger. However, it was noted that, in the future, the school might decide it was time to consider naming the theatre after a person.”
“The Executive also considered how the historical events of the ‘What is Life?’ lectures (1943) should be commemorated or marked … It was decided that there should be a notice mounted in the room recording the fact that at least one of Schrödinger’s 1943 ‘What is Life?’ lectures was given in the theatre.”
“The School will seek advice on the appropriate presentation of the historical and scientific impact of the lectures and, in particular, how to address Schrödinger’s personal actions and the history of the School’s and Trinity’s celebrations of the lectures and the man including the renaming of the theatre for Schrödinger. It is yet to be decided where these issues would be presented and all options will be explored e.g. on the School website or in an information panel or poster in the room itself.”
“It was also decided that it would be inappropriate to continue with the annual ‘Schrödinger Lecture’ series that was instituted by the then Faculty of Science in 1995 in conjunction with the Austrian Embassy and which has been run by the School (on the Trinity side) for the past 15 years or so. Since a number of people have suggested that a ‘What is Life?’ series could be instituted instead, it was agreed that the Head of School consult with the Dean of the Faculty and other Schools to see if they would be interested in running such a series as the name would seem inappropriate for a physics series.”
Earlier this month, The University Times reported that staff in the School of Physics were to call for the theatre to be renamed in light of revelations about Schrödinger’s abuse and grooming of young women and girls.
Two staff members in the School confirmed to The University Times that a meeting would be held to discuss the possibility of renaming the theatre, after an Irish Times article published in December detailed Schrödinger’s record as a “sexual predator”. The meeting was supposed to be held today but was postponed.
A petition published in December calling for Schrödinger’s removal from the School of Physics lecture theatre’s name, has garnered 188 signatures. The petition is being shared among staff in the school, but it was not created by a staff member.