We all know that Irish construction workers are responsible for building some of the greatest cities in the world from Chicago to London to New York, but did you know that it was an Irishman who invented cement?

On January 18 1779, Silgo man, Brian Higgins, filed the patent (no. 1207) for cement.

In 1779, Higgins obtained a patent for a cheap and durable cement, "...composed of sand and lime, and a certain proportion of bone-ashes, the lime being slaked with limewater instead of common water, and the mixture made use of as rapidly as possible after being made."

Bryan Higgins was born in Collooney, County Sligo in 1741. The son of a doctor, also called Brian, he entered the University of Leiden in 1765 and qualified as a Doctor of Physics. He subsequently ran a School of Practical Chemistry at 13 Greek Street, Soho, London during the 1770s which was patronized by the then Duke of Northumberland amongst others.

However, he was more of a speculator than an experimenter and published many works on chemistry and related disciplines. At some point between 1780 and 1790, Higgins visited Saint Petersburg as a guest of Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia. He returned to London in January 1794 to continue his lectures at the School of Practical Chemistry.

As well as carrying out analyses on water from mineral springs he studied cement, soap, oils and fuels. While the syllabus of his course shows an emphasis on the usefulness of chemistry in manufacturing, he was also concerned with theoretical concepts such as chemical affinities, the 'weight' of atoms and molecular structures. His book on cement manufacture was published in 1780.

In 1797, Higgins was hired by a public committee in Jamaica for the improvement of the manufacture of Muscovado sugar and rum. He resided in Jamaica from 1797 to 1799.

Higgins died at his estate in Walford, Staffordshire, England in 1818.

Today in 1779 a doctor of physics from Sligo received the patent for cheap and durable cement.