LOFAR is located on Birr Castle Demesne, Co. Offaly — a 50 hectare stretch of enclosed parkland and private home to the 7th Earl of Rosse, whose family have lived here since the early 17th century. Birr Castle has a long and rich heritage in science and engineering. The 3rd Earl of Rosse, Charles Parsons is credited with the invention of the steam turbine, the modern manifestation of which can be found in various types electrical generators today. Charles’s wife, Mary Parsons, was one of the pioneering experimenters of the precursor to photography, known as a collodion photographic process. Her work earned her the Photographic Society of Ireland’s first silver medal and she was the first female member of the Dublin Photographic Society. During the mid-19th century the 3rd Earl’s cousin, Mary Ward, had great interest in microscopy and many of her plant and insect drawings were featured in scientific publications of that era.
Birr Castle is perhaps most famous for its long history in astronomy. In 1845, the 3rd Earl built the biggest optical telescope in the world and it remained so for 75 years, only being superseded by the Hooker Telescope at Mount Willson Observatory, California. On the grounds of Birr Castle, still standing in the middle of the park is the great telescope – the Leviathan – with its 15 metre long tube and 2 metre diameter aperture.