CBS student who became DNA trailblazer

Mass for Dr Conneally


Dr. P. Michael Conneally, right, who was born in Kilmore near Ballygar in Co. Galway on December 4th, 1931, sadly passed away on February 17th in Indiana. The eldest of five, he received his primary education at Kilmore and Ballaghlea National Schools, and received his secondary education at Roscommon CBS.


  He attended University College Dublin and in 1954 obtained a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture. He then obtained a Master’s Degree at UCD before travelling to the United States in 1958 to attend the University of Wisconsin.

  He graduated with a Masters and Ph.D in Medical Genetics in 1962 and went on to become part of the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at the University of Indiana.

  His distinguished 50-year research career included the study of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alcoholism, Diabetes and psychiatric illness. In collaboration with researchers from Columbia University and Harvard University, he was the first to use DNA techniques to map a human gene.

  Over the past twenty years he has helped map approximately 20 human genes and his work has resulted in the identification of 20% of the human genome. 

  In 1983 he played a major role in locating a genetic marker linked to Huntington’s disease, making it the first genetic disease mapped using DNA polymorphisms. He went on to participate in research that led to the location of the actual gene that causes Huntington’s disease in 1993.

  In 2001 he received the International Society of Psychiatric Genetics Lifetime Achievement Award and in 2005 was named a Top 15 Irish-American Life Scientist of the Year. He served as an expert witness in numerous criminal trials involving DNA, including the O.J. Simpson trial. He also served as a member of the World Trade Centre and Hurricane Katrina DNA Identification Committees. In 1991, he was awarded an honorary degree from Trinity College, Dublin and Dr. Conneally became a distinguished Professor Emeritus in 2005 at Indiana University School of Medicine.

  In May 2001, Michael Conneally donated a substantial sum of money to Colaiste Mhuire, Ballygar to set up a science fund that would acknowledge excellence in science subjects known as the Dr. Michael Conneally Awards. The awards are given to the best Junior and Leaving Cert Science Students.

  Michael is survived by his wife Mary, son Nick, daughter Ann, daughter-n-law, son-n-law, three grandchildren, brothers John and Denis. He was predeceased by his brother Tommie Joe and sister Breege O’Roarke.

  Mass will be celebrated in Saint Mary’s Church, Ballygar tonight (Thursday, 9th) at 7.30 pm.