Presentation silver inkstand. Henry Wilkinson & Company, Sheffield, England, 'Boole Inkstand'

16 Mar 2021

Silver, 1848.

Ref: UCCHS.L2015.001 © University College Cork, on loan. 

Presentation silver inkstand, consisting of four parts: 1) silver tray on four curled feet, with a handle on either side of the tray; 2) two glass inkwells with silver lids; 3) silver taper stick (candlestick); 4) silver pounce pot.

Inscription on tray reads: “Presented to/ Mr. George Boole/ by Friends in the City and County of Lincoln/ on his appointment to the / Professorship of Mathematics / Queen's College Cork / 28th Dec 1849.”

Maker: Henry Wilkinson & Co., Sheffield, England. An inkstand of similar design by this maker was exhibited at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London.

Hallmarked: assay mark Sheffield; maker’s mark: HW & Co; and date mark for 1848.

Provenance: By descent from Prof. George Boole (1815-1864) to Prof. Geoffrey Hinton, Canada. Prof. Hinton is a great-great-great-grandson of George Boole. On loan to University College Cork from 2015.


Context: George Boole, born Lincoln, England, in 1815 became the first professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College, Cork, in 1849. Before his departure from Lincoln, his friends and neighbours gave him a public supper, chaired by the Mayor, and at which, as a testimonial of their regard, he was presented with ‘a valuable collection of books and a silver inkstand’ (Stamford Mercury, 16/12/1864, p.5).

Boole worked in the fields of differential equations and algebraic logic, and is best known as the author of An investigation of the laws of thought (1854) which describes Boolean algebra. Boolean logic is credited with laying the foundations for the information age. Other significant works by Boole are the two systematic treatises on mathematical subjects: A treatise on differential equations (1859) and A treatise on the calculus of finite differences (1860). Boole died on 8 December 1864 at his home in Ballintemple, a suburb of Cork city. He is buried in the Church of Ireland graveyard of St Michael’s, Church Road, Blackrock, Cork. Obituaries were published widely in the newspapers of Ireland and Britain.

In the collection of the Boole Library, UCC, are first editions of some of Boole’s publications: A treatise on differential equations (1854), An investigation of the laws of thought: on which are founded the mathematical theories of logic and probabilities (with notes in manuscript by Boole) (1854) and A treatise on the calculus of finite differences (1860).

A memorial window was installed in December 1866 in the Aula Maxima, UCC, and another in Lincoln Cathedral. The new Library and lecture complex at UCC was named in memory of George Boole in 1984. A bust of Boole was installed facing the Library during the year-long events at UCC that marked the bicentenary of his birth. Also in that year, UCC commissioned a documentary film, ‘The Genius of George Boole’, narrated by actor Jeremy Irons. Boole’s great-great-grandson Prof. Geoffrey Hinton, a distinguished computer scientist, contributed to this film, which used UCC as a location.

Read more about George Boole, first professor of Mathematics at Cork


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