Norman McMillan B.Sc., Ph.D., M.I.E.I., C.Eng., Ur. Ing., M.Inst.P., F.R.S.A.was born in Ontario of Canadian father and English mother. Educated in United Kingdom with a B.Sc.(Hons.) Portsmouth University and Ph.D. in Experimental Physics from University of Nottingham. Subsequently completed a Post Doctoral Fellowship in Dublin University investigating and ultimately explaining the fibrillation behaviour of stretched polyethylene in an industrial project with Irish Ropes, Newbridge. He was appointed as Senior Lecturer in Carlow Technical College in 1972 and worked there until his recent retirement. He now manages Drop Technology in Tallaght.
McMillan is perhaps best known for his work on the History of Irish Science, Engineering, Technology and Education. He has published widely on many aspects of this including two books on John Tyndall. ‘John Tyndall, The ‘X’emplar of Scientific and Technological Education’ and ‘John Tyndall: Essays on a Natural Philosopher’ both of which appeared in 1981, and wrote the entry on Tyndall in the Dictionnaire des Philosophes (University of Paris) which he considers to be a definitive piece of work in that it explains for the first time Tyndall’s philosophical contributions in the historical context of his day and identifies for the first time Tyndall’s own philosophical inspirations. In 1997 with the assistance of Bord Fáilte and colleagues he established the National Committee for Science and Engineering Plaques.He was the Chair of the History of Science and Engineering Conference in 1985 Trinity which led to the publication of the book ‘Science in Ireland 1800- 1930: Tradition and Reform’ (Dublin, 1988). This book included a study of Samuel Haughton and was edited with Nudds, Weaire and Lawlor.
Mcmillan has been involved for years with innovative student project work and two of the students he supervised, Henry Byrne and Emma Donnelan from FCJ College, Bunclody were the Supreme Champions in the Aer Lingus Young Scientist of the Year in 1985. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts for his involvement in educational matters. McMillan was Secretary of the Institute of Physics Irish Branch for more than five years and produced a range of important innovations in the Irish Branch. He has been active in developing the Optical Engineering Society of Ireland (Irish Chapter of SPIE-The International Engineering Society). In 1987 he developed a crystal analyser system which was a fully working robotic system for analysing sugar crystal that have been mechanically separated with a speed of some 1000 crystals a minute. This work was published in both Microscopy and Analysis (May 1992) and in the industry journal Sugar y Azucar (August 1991). This was the first ever-imaging robotic system for such quality control applications and has subsequently been developed by Brown in Nottingham for geological and pharmaceutical applications, the latter with Boots.
He is acknowledged as the founder of tensiography, a powerful new technique which can be defined as the computer (graphical) analysis that allows for monitoring, measurement or analysis of signals obtained from various sensors deriving their responses from growing liquid drops to provide information on the liquids, or components in these liquids, or at the surfaces of these liquids. He holds patents on optical fiber tensiography and, with colleagues, on ultrasonic tensiography. This work has been pioneered with Carl Stuart Ltd., Tallaght, Dublin. Since the 1960’s he has campaigned in support of environmental issues.