2014 Press Releases

An Taoiseach launches George Boole celebrations

8 Nov 2014
Picture l-r: UCC President, Dr Michael Murphy with An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny,TD and UCC Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Desmond MacHale at the launch of UCC's year-long celebrations in 2015 to mark the bicentenary of George Boole (1815-1864)

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD  joined UCC President Dr Michael Murphy to launch the University’s year-long celebrations in 2015 to mark the bicentenary of George Boole (1815-1864).

George Boole was  a self-taught mathematical genius who was UCC's first professor of mathematics and who is widely regarded as one of the most significant pioneers of the information age.

The next time you use a search engine on the internet or power up your iPad, give a thought to George Boole - an innovator and trailblazer in mathematics, logic and probability theory who is acknowledged as one of the founders of the digital age. Some 150 years after his death, his influence is considered so great that "every laptop, every tablet, every mp3 player, every smartphone today owes its existence, in part, to Boole’s mathematical legacy; so too does the internet."[1]

In the week that the Web Summit took place in Dublin, the launch of George Boole 200 celebrations was especially timely. He was, after all, one of the forefathers of the digital age who paved the way for the advances in technology that global leaders in the fields of ICT and STEM were showcasing at the Web Summit.

The celebrations of the life and legacy of George Boole include a diverse range of high-profile projects and events that will celebrate the contributions of Boole in the fields of mathematics, computer science and engineering, but will also establish a series of legacy initiatives that will serve to inspire and fund the next generation of talent in these disciplines.

The Year of celebrations - promoted under the banner of George Boole 200 - will span a wide mix of ambitious projects and events and will culminate in George Boole Day, a special day of commemoration on the 2nd November each year (Boole’s birth date) when his genius will be acknowledged and celebrated internationally. Event highlights for George Boole 200 include:

–      Major Restoration of No.5 Grenville Place: UCC will partner with Cork City Council on the restoration of Boole’s first home in Cork. The Council’s intention is to acquire the building and to work closely with UCC to ensure that a suitable, sustainable long-term use is brought to this property in a manner that will appropriately honour the legacy of George Boole. Grenville Place is where Boole wrote his masterpiece ‘An Investigation of the Laws of Thought’ (published 1854) which centered on his famous theory of logic and probabilities.

–      George Boole documentary:  An official film biography of George Boole to be aired in 2015

–      Ecumenical Commemoration: A choral evensong event will take place in St. Michael’s Church of Ireland in Blackrock, where George Boole was laid to rest in December 1864

–      George Boole Tours:  An interactive tour taking in the landmark locations on campus and works that made George Boole famous will be open to the public from February 2015

–      Boolean Art Exhibition: Boolean Expressions: an internationally significant exhibition of contemporary art and mathematical data at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in UCC. Another exciting highlight planned is a digitisation of George Boole’s work to be displayed as a permanent art installation in the Boole library

–      Conferences: A series of three international conferences will be hosted in 2015 that celebrate the work and legacy of George Boole. The conferences will feature many world renowned academics and personalities who are distinguished in the fields of mathematics and computer science

–      Global Alumni Celebrations and Networking Events: a series of networking events will be held in London, San Francisco, New York, Boston, China and India in 2015, inviting UCC alumni and friends to celebrate George Boole and take part in the George Boole 200 programme and fundraising for his various legacy initiatives

–      Youth Outreach Programme: a series of outreach events to primary and school children is planned to celebrate George Boole and demonstrate his relevance to today’s’ younger generation. One confirmed event is the ‘I Wish’ event which will give 1,000 female transition year students the chance to meet female entrepreneurs from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields

–      Biography: The seminal biography of George Boole by Professor Des MacHale has been republished as part of the bicentenary celebrations

Speaking at the launch, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD said, “It is timely that UCC is celebrating George Boole in the week of the Web Summit since his pioneering work in mathematics and computer science makes him one of the forefathers of the digital age.  As the Government works to secure economic recovery, Ireland continues to enhance its reputation as a world leader in science and technology.  I commend UCC on their ambitious and exciting programme of events to commemorate George Boole's bicentenary year, which should be of great interest to Cork and the country as a whole."

Dr Michael Murphy, President of University College Cork, said, “Ireland is lauded around the world for our famous scholars and among them George Boole, originally from Lincoln, is highly distinguished.  Some 200 years after his birth, George Boole remains a beacon of academic excellence and the influence of his theories of logic and probabilities are as powerful today as they were back in the 1800s. 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. Through our planned extensive programme of celebratory George Boole200 events we will celebrate the long established tradition of world-class research in academic disciplines associated with him. Of course, his most enduring legacy will be that whenever you turn on a computer or use the internet, you think of George Boole.”

UCC have launched a highly interactive and informative website to capture all the highlights of George Boole200 bicentennial year. Go to www.georgeboole.com to learn more.

About George Boole

In 1849, George Boole was appointed the first Professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College, now University College Cork. His research became a prelude to modern mathematics, microelectronic engineering and computer science. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that Boole laid the foundations of the Information Age. Boole received a Gold Medal for Mathematics in 1844 from the Royal Society, the first to be awarded to a pure mathematician, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1857. He published many scientific papers and four books, the most famous of which is his magnum opus, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, written while a professor in UCC, and published in 1854.

What came to be known as Boolean algebra was used by the engineer Claude Shannon in the 1930s to design electrical circuits which could be used to carry out sequences of logical instructions based on the binary values “on/true” or “off/ false”. These circuits evolved into modern computers and the instruction sequences became computer programmes, or algorithms. Thus, Boole’s work provides the mathematical and logical underpinning of computers, not only in their languages, but in their very construction.

The definitive biography of Boole is George Boole: His Life and Work, by University College Cork Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, Desmond MacHale (Boole Press, 1985). A revised edition of the book, The Life and Work of George Boole: A Prelude to the Digital Age, with a new foreword by Professor Ian Stewart, has been published by Cork University Press to mark the 200th anniversary of Boole’s birth.

In 1855 Boole married Mary Everest, later a noted educationalist and niece of Sir George Everest, after whom the world’s highest mountain is named. The couple had five daughters - Mary Ellen, Margaret, Alicia, Lucy and Ethel Lillian, all of whom lived interesting lives and several of whom became famous in their own right. In addition to his university teaching and research, Boole was also active in adult education in Cork. Sadly, in December 1864, in the full vigour of his intellectual powers, Boole died after a fever. He is buried in St Michael’s Church of Ireland cemetery in Blackrock, Cork.

During George Boole 200 UCC will celebrate the man and his achievements. We plan a series of projects and events in 2014/2015 and we will carry Boole’s legacy forward, using his example to continue to inspire future generations through education and research.

For more information please go to: http://www.georgeboole.com 

[1] Source: Forward by Ian Stewart in 'The Life and Work of George Boole: A Prelude to the Digital Age' (Cork University Press, 2014) by Professor Des MacHale, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork, where George Boole was the first Professor of Mathematics

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