Mathematician and logistician
1815 - 1864
Mathematician and logistician who developed ways of expressing logical processes using algebraic symbols, creating a branch of mathematics known as symbolic logic.
Born in Lincoln, England on November 2, 1815, George Boole was the son of a poor shoemaker. As a child, Boole was educated at a National Society primary school. He received very little formal education, but was determined to become self-educated.
When he was merely sixteen, Boole became an assistant teacher at an elementary school, and he founded his own school four years later. When Boole opened his school, he also began seriously studying mathematics. His desire to pursue math was inspired in part by his frustration at using inferior math texts to educate his pupils. This frustration led Boole to forever alter the world of numbers.
By 1840, only five years after he began studying math, Boole was creating original work. In 1844, a paper he wrote on the calculus of operators was given a gold medal by the Royal Society. This honor secured recognition for Boole from British mathematicians. His reputation was greatly enhanced in 1847 when he published The Mathematical Analysis of Logic, a short volume that first introduced Boole's early ideas on symbolic logic to the world. The publication demonstrated that logic, as presented and verbalized by Aristotle, could be rendered as algebraic equations. As expressed by Boole, "We ought no longer to associate Logic and Metaphysics, but Logic and Mathematics." Indeed, numbers may be the truest representation of logic known to humanity.
1849 marked a significant change in Boole's life, when he was appointed professor of mathematics at Queen's College in Cork, Ireland. He became chair of mathematics, and taught at the school the rest of his life. The school later became known as University College Cork.
In 1854, Boole published An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, on Which Are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities. This work expounds upon his earlier work, and contains the concepts which have come to be known collectively as Boolean algebra. He was named a fellow of the Royal Society in 1857, and Boole's 1860 publication on the calculus of finite differences has become a seminal work in that field.
Boole married Mary Everest in 1855, and they had five daughters together before his death from pneumonia on December 8, 1864. In 1847, George Boole observed that the importance of his work would vary, determined primarily by the fields in which his theories found application. Today, Boole's texts on symbolic logic are used extensively not only in the teaching of mathematics, but also in information theory, switching theory, graph theory, computer science, and artificial intelligence research.
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