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The Life and Work of George Boole: A Prelude to the Digital Age
Foreword by Ian Stewart Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Warwick University, UK

This book, aimed at the general reader, is the first full-length biography of George Boole (18151864) who has been variously described as the founder of pure mathematics, father of computer science and discoverer of symbolic logic. Boole is mostly remembered as a mathematician and logician whose work found application in computer science long after his death, but this biography reveals Boole as much more than a mathematical genius; he was a child prodigy, self-taught linguist and practical scientist, turbulent academic and devoted teacher, social reformer and poet, psychologist and humanitarian, religious thinker and good family man truly a nineteenth-century polymath.

George Boole was born in Lincoln, England, the son of a struggling shoemaker. Boole was forced to leave school at the age of sixteen and never attended a university. He taught himself languages, natural philosophy and mathematics. After his father's business failed he supported the entire family by becoming an assistant teacher, eventually opening his own boarding school in Lincoln. He began to produce original mathematical research and, in 1844, he was awarded the first gold medal for mathematics by the Royal Society.

Boole was deeply interested in the idea of expressing the workings of the human mind in symbolic form, and his two books on this subject, The Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847) and An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854) form the basis of today's computer science and electronic circuitry. He also made important contributions to areas of mathematics such as invariant theory (of which he was the founder), differential and difference equations and probability. Much of the 'new mathematics' now studied by children in school set theory, binary numbers and Boolean algebra, has its origins in Boole's work.

In 1849, Boole was appointed first professor of mathematics in Ireland's new Queen's College (now University College) Cork and taught and worked there until his tragic and premature death in 1864. In 1855, he had married Mary Everest, a niece of the man after whom the world's highest mountain is named. The Boole's had five remarkable daughters including Alicia, a mathematician, Lucy, a professor of chemistry, and Ethel (Voynich), a novelist and author of The Gadfly.

Desmond MacHale is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork, where Boole was the first professor of mathematics.

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In 2015 University College Cork will celebrate the bicentenary of George Boole's birth in 1815. To find out more visit georgeboole.com

The Booles and the Hintons: 
two dynasties that helped shape the modern world
In 1983 Gerry Kennedy set off on a tour through Russia, China, Japan and the USA to visit others involved in the global anti-war movement. Only dimly aware of his Victorian ancestors: George Boole, forefather of the digital revolution and James Hinton, eccentric philosopher and advocate of polygamy, he had directly followed in the footsteps of two dynasties of radical thinkers and doers.

Their notable achievements, in which the women were particularly prominent, involved many spheres. Boole's wife, Mary Everest, niece of George Everest, surveyor of the eponymous mountain, was an early advocate of hands-on education. Of the five talented Boole daughters, Ethel Voynich, wife of the discoverer of the enigmatic, still unexplained Voynich Manuscript, campaigned with Russian anarchists to overthrow the Tsar. Her 1897 novel The Gadfly, filmed later with music by Shostakovich, sold in millions behind the Iron Curtain. She was rumoured to have had an affair with the notorious 'Ace of Spies', Sidney Reilly.

One of Ethel's sisters married Charles Howard Hinton: a leading exponent of the esoteric realm of the fourth dimension and inventor of the gunpowder baseball-pitcher. Of their descendants, Carmelita Hinton also pioneered progressive education in the USA at her school in Putney, Vermont. Her children dedicated their lives to Mao's China. Appalled by the dropping on Japan of the atomic bomb that she had helped design, Joan Hinton defected to China and actively engaged in the Cultural Revolution. William Hinton wrote the influential documentary Fanshen based on his experience in 1948 of revolutionary change in a Shanxi village. Other members of the clan became renowned in their fields of physics, entomology and botany. Their combined legacy of independent and constructive thinking is perhaps typified by the invention of the Jungle Gym: the climbing-frame now used by children the world over. In George Boole and the Hintons the author embarks on a quest to reveal the stories behind their remarkable lives.
New Light on George Boole
New Light on George Boole
Our Price: €19.95
George Boole (1815-1864) was born in Lincoln and was largely self-taught, having left school before he was sixteen. First, he taught himself languages--Latin, Greek, French, German, and Italian, and then Astronomy, Optics, Mechanics, and Mathematics. By the age of 21 he was publishing original research in mathematical journals, and in 1849, despite his lack of a degree, he was appointed first Professor of Mathematics at the newly founded Queen's College Cork (now UCC). In 1854 he published his great work there, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought which laid the foundations of today's digital revolution. In 1855 Boole married Mary Everest whose uncle was the man after whom the world's highest mountain was called, and they had five remarkable daughters. Sadly, he died in 1864, at the early age of 49, having walked to college in the pouring rain.


Boole's academic career has been covered in a biography by Desmond MacHale, The Life and Work of George Boole (Boole Press 1985, reprinted by Cork University Press 2014). Now there is a totally new book on Boole, New Light on George Boole, detailing the human side of this great genius. It covers his family history, correspondence, love of nature, and his reactions to the devastating Irish Famine, as well as his family life and relations with his students. A highlight of the book is his meeting with Charles Babbage, who invented the Difference Engine, a primitive 19th century computer. There is interesting personal correspondence between Boole and his family and a variety of friends and mathematicians, and a fascinating account of his trip to Germany and his opinions of German society. Boole's controversial death is discussed too, did his wife inadvertently hasten his end with her crank medical cures? But by far the most controversial chapter in the book concerns the theory that Boole was the inspiration for Professor James Moriarty, the arch villain of the Sherlock Holmes stories. Convincing evidence for this theory is presented, and the other candidates are examined in detail.

Written for the general reader, New Light on George Boole is designed to show the personal side of a great thinker--loving husband, devoted father, religious maverick, generous benefactor, and much-loved teacher. In attempting to understand how the human mind processes thought and uses Logic, Boole put his finger on the on the secret of mechanised thinking. This led to the digital computer which controls every aspect of our lives today.


Desmond MacHale is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork, where Boole was the first professor of mathematics. Yvonne Cohen is a Mathematics and History graduate of University College Cork and is a Chartered Accountant.


   
 
 
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