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Death of Professor Boole, Queen's College.

Cork Constitution December 10th 1864

Cork Constitution December 10th 1864

  • 08 Dec 2014

150 years ago today Cork, Lincoln, and the world lost a man that would shape our future. 

George Boole, the first Professor of Mathematics in University College Cork (then Queen’s College Cork), sadly passed away from ‘effusion of the lungs’ on December 8th 1864. While walking to the university from his home in Blackrock a few days earlier Boole was caught in a heavy rain storm. He lectured all day in the university in wet clothes and became ill.

While a Professor in Cork, Boole wrote The Laws of Thought, which earned him the title 'Father of Symbolic Logic' and has influenced our present day lives as it contains the mathematics for today's computer systems. Boolean algebra was first applied to electrical switching circuits in the 1930’s by Claude Shannon. Many of the mathematical topics taught in schools today, including set theory, probability and binary numbers, can be traced back to Boole. He also invented a branch of mathematics called invariant theory, which made a contribution to operator theory and differential equations.

Although he never had the opportunity to gain a university degree, the Royal Society awarded him the first gold medal for Pure Mathematics in 1844, and in 1857 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was awarded an honorary LLD by the University of Dublin in 1851 and received an honorary DCL from Oxford University in 1859. 

This evening University College Cork remembers George Boole in reverence and affection. The academic community will join the parishioners of St. Michael’s Church of Ireland in Blackrock, where Boole was laid to rest, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of George Boole’s death through the service of Choral Evensong. The service will be led by Venerable Archdeacon Adrian Wilkinson, in the presence of leading members of the academic community from University College Cork and Cork Institute of Technology, church, civic and community leaders, and the families of the parish of St Michael’s. The sermon will be preached by Reverend Dr Mark Hocknull, Canon Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral, and member of the academic staff of the University of Lincoln, Boole’s home town until he was appointed as Professor in Cork. Dr Hocknull’s theme will centre on Boole’s deeply held religious beliefs and the nature of the relationship between science and religion, bringing a modern perspective to an age-old question.

The music for the Choral Evensong will be provided by the highly acclaimed Clerks Choral. In recognition of the place of Boole’s work in modern information technology, a child from the parish school will be presented with a credit card-sized computer by Professor Barry O' Sullivan, Head of Department of Computer Science at UCC, and a Director of the Science Foundation Ireland  Insight Centre for Data Analytics, with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools. . All children in the school will receive one of these computers in the New Year.

Boole’s death was deeply felt by many around the world both at the time of passing and to this present day. One cannot help but wonder of other discoveries he might have made had his life not been cut short.

(Read the London Times Obituary in full)

George Boole's untimely death - A note from the UCC Library Archive Service

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