In 2015, University College Cork is celebrating 200 years since the birth of the famous mathematician, philosopher and professor George Boole.
After his death in 1864, his legacy grew as his way of mathematics known as Boolean algebra paved the way for scientists such as Claude Shannon and Victor Shestakov to apply Boole’s work into digital electronic circuits, hence creating the digital age that we are familiar with today.
George Boole was born in 1815 in Lincolnshire, England. Boole only had a basic primary education with no further formal and academic training. By the time he was 16 years old he was self-taught in several languages and in mathematics.
For many years in his early adult life he taught in several schools, including a school he established himself in Lincoln at 19 years old. From 1838 onwards, Boole’s interest in mathematics developed as he started studying algebra and publishing research papers.
Boole’s academic works caught the attention of fellow intellectuals as he was appointed the first professor of mathematics in Queen’s College Cork (now going under the more recognisable name of University College Cork) in 1849, only four years after the university was established.
He was highly respected in the field of mathematics in his lifetime as he was awarded the Keith Medal by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1855, elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1857, and received honorary degrees from Oxford University and the University of Dublin (a part of Trinity).
Boole died in 1864 after contracting a severe fever from walking two miles from his home to the university in the rain.
His legacy as a high-profile professor largely remains in UCC with the library, the underground lecture theatre, and the Boole Centre for Research in Informatics (located at the Western Gateway Building) are named in his honour.
In the scientific community a data type in computer programming and a crater on the moon are both named after George Boole.
Since the official launch of the George Boole Bicentenary Celebrations, UCC has hosted many events throughout the year, such as when comedian Dara Ó Briain paid homage to Boole in February.
As well as his talent in comedy, Ó Briain has a strong connection to mathematics and science after studying theoretical physics and mathematics at University College Dublin and presenting shows over the years such as Dara Ó Briain’s Science Club and Dara Ó Briain: School of Hard Sums on the BBC.
From today through to Sunday, the George Boole Bicentenary Celebration will be held. The conference will provide an opportunity to celebrate George Boole and his legacy, and is free and open to the public.
As well as that, there have been tours set up at the UCC Visitors’ Centre to bring the life and works of George Boole to life known as ‘Being Boole’. A portrayal of George Boole to bring the 19th century to life and to guide visitors through the history of UCC, his own relationship with the college and his impact on not only the university, but also on the worldwide scientific community.
The Being Boole tours are running until December and are open six days a week. (Open at 3pm on Monday-Friday and 12pm on Saturday).
In an interview with the Irish Examiner in January 2015, UCC President Dr. Michael Murphy said of Boole:
“At UCC we are hugely proud of George Boole and he serves as the ultimate ambassador to our long tradition of independent thinking – a trait he epitomised in his lifetime.”
If you’re interested in checking out more about Boole and cannot make it to UCC, then keep an eye out for The Genius of George Boole next Tuesday night, September 1st, on RTE One .
It boasts of having the Oscar-winning actor, Jeremy Irons on hand as narrator while it also promises to show how Boole is linked to the current era of Google.