Born July 9, 1809, in Attateemor, County Kilkenny; died Dec. 9, 1861, in Dublin. Irish historian and philologist.
O’Donovan made a major contribution to the study of the modern and medieval Irish language. Equally important was his historical research and his publication of ancient and medieval Irish texts, such as the Annals of the Four Masters. He also prepared for publication the Senchus Mór, a collection of ancient laws, which was published after his death. He was a cofounder (1840) and member of the Irish Archaeological Society. F. Engels considered O’Donovan one of the initiators of the critical trend in Irish bourgeois national historiography. O’Donovan’s contribution lies in his refutation of the chauvinistic assertions of English bourgeois historians that Irish sources were not authentic. At the same time he exaggerated the distinctive character of Celtic society in the period preceding the English conquest of Ireland.