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The George Boole Collection



The George Boole Collection

The George Boole Collection housed in the Boole Library are the most extensive archive concerning George Boole. Some initial items arrived in the late 1970s, but the key materials were acquired in 1983 as a single collection, from a Boole descendant in the United States.

The collection contains 400 items, including copies of 80 letters relating to George Boole which were transcribed by his sister, Mary Ann.

There are only a few documents relating to Boole’s academic work. It seems probable that his widow Mary, who experienced a period of financial stress after his death in 1864, sold his academic papers to the Royal Society in London, where they remain today.

The UCC materials reveal a more personal aspect of Boole’s life in Cork and his impressions of Ireland. Particularly significant are his descriptions, soon after arriving in 1849, of the city and surrounding region in the aftermath of the potato famine. Boole witnessed the destitution in Cork city and the malnourished rural poor, and was troubled by the plight of little children.

Boole’s sister Mary Ann (1818-87) was instrumental in assembling this archive, in preparation for a biography she planned after her brother’s death, but never wrote. George Boole’s high regard for his sister, and his appreciation of her advice, are well-documented here.

The George Boole Collection consists mainly of personal letters to and from Boole which were collected by his sister Mary Ann. The archive gives a fascinating insight into the life of George Boole from the period immediately prior to his arrival in Cork in 1849, until his death in 1864. While only a few of Boole's academic works are preserved here, there are drafts of unpublished lectures dealing with such topics as astronomy, ancient mythology, education, and one entitled 'Are the planets inhabited?'.