Sheila Tinney (née Power) is believed to have been the first Irish woman to receive a PhD in mathematics. She went on to become a respected lecturer and academic.
Tinney was the daughter of Michael Power, professor of mathematics at University College Galway. She was educated in Galway and later in Dublin, where in 1935 she was one of only eight girls in the state to sit the Leaving Certificate higher mathematics paper. She went on to achieve a first-class degree in mathematical science in 1938 and an MA in 1939, both from UCD. Assisted by a National University of Ireland Travelling Studentship, she proceeded to the University of Edinburgh to study crystals under the Nobel laureate Max Born.
1941 was a memorable year for Power. Aged just 23, she graduated from Edinburgh with a PhD, was made an assistant lecturer in UCD, and held a fellowship at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. DIAS had been founded in the previous year and was headed by the renowned physicist, Erwin Schrödinger. He described Power as one of the ‘best equipped and most successful of the younger generation of theoretical physicists in Ireland.