George Berkeley’s Name Removed from Trinity College Dublin Library

The college’s legacy group said that it had received 93 submissions from students, staff members and the public about the library name. A slim majority, 47, supported changing it, 16 called for retaining it, and the others staked a middle ground.

Most of those who supported keeping the name argued that Berkeley’s views reflected his time, or that it would be wrong to remove the name of one of Ireland’s greatest thinkers.

David McConnell, a former vice provost of the college, argued for the retain and explain approach.

“Berkeley draws attention to him because he was a very great scholar, and it’s important that people know about him and, in the case of the students today, maybe be inspired by him,” Professor McConnell said. “If the name isn’t up there on the library, he will fade away and be known only to people who study philosophy.”

The chairman of the group that recommended renaming the library, Prof. Eoin O’Sullivan, said its work had been influenced by other universities facing similar issues.

Harvard Medical School, for example, voted in 2020 to rename an academic society named for Oliver Wendell Holmes. The 19th-century physician and writer was an early promoter of racial eugenics and successfully pushed for the removal of the first Black students admitted to the school. In 2016, Harvard Law School voted to stop using the heraldic shield of the Royall family because Isaac Royall Jr., a major 18th-century donor to the college, had derived his wealth from slavery.

Last year, the physics department of Trinity College Dublin decided to remove the name of the renowned Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger from one of its lecture halls. Schrödinger worked and taught at the college in the 1940s, but was recently revealed to have been a serial abuser of teenage girls.

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