George Boole

Date of Birth:  2 Nov 1815

Date of Death: 8 Dec 1864

George Boole was born to Mary Ann Joyce and John Boole.  He was their first child.  He was christened the day after he was born which, at the time, would have indicated a weak child. John Boole was a shoe maker, but was more interested in math, and science.  He was particularly interested in how math was used to make scientific instruments.

The Education of George Boole

George Boole attended school at a very young age, however most of his math tutoring came from his father.  George attended a primary school when he was seven.  It was around this time that he became more interested in languages.  

His father arranged for Latin tuition from a local bookseller.  George went on to teach himself Greek.  In 1828 he attended Commercial Academy in Lincoln.  It was what his parents could afford, however he was not offered the type of education he wanted.  Because of this he taught himself French and German.  

His Education Ends, but his Talent is Noticed!

When he was just sixteen years old, his father lost his business.  This forced George to assume the position of assistant teacher at Heigham's School in Doncaster. For the next few years he turned his attention from languages to math.  In 1834, he was only 19 years old, but opened his own school in Lincoln, having briefly held a position at Hall’s Academy in Waddington. 

A friend (and mathematician) of Boole, Duncan Gregory, encouraged him in his mathematical studies. Gregory, was the editor of the Cambridge Mathematical Journal. 

He also encouraged Boole to take classes at Cambridge.  Boole however could not do this as he was still supporting his Parents and younger brothers and sisters.

 Although he could not attend classes at Cambridge University, he did publish math papers regularly in the Cambridge Mathematical Journal.  His observations, proofs and writings brought fame to George Boole.

His Career and Personal Life Flourish

Boole was offered the position of the chair of mathematics at Queens College, Cork in 1849.  In August, 1849, it was announced that Boole would become the first professor of mathematics at Queens College, Cork. In 1851, he was appointed as Dean of Science.

This college is now known as University College Cork (UCC), and in recent years built a new library, which carries the name Boole. If you take the virtual tour on the UCC site, you will be able to see a photo of this building.

Boole, married Mary Everest, the niece of Sir George Everest.  Mount Everest is named after him!  They had five daughters.

Boole taught at Queens University Cork, until he died of pneumonia. 

Although Boolian algebra is not an area of math that will be studied at the elementary level, George Boole's story is an inspiring one.  He came from poverty, but still pursued an education – teaching himself when he had to.  His career was halted, as he assumed the responsibility of taking care of his parents and siblings, but he pursued his dreams. 

And because I am from County Cork in Ireland, and University College Cork is where my father studied (and married my mother) and much later my brother studied, – Boole's story holds a special place for me.

More information

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