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2015 Press Releases

George Boole and his influence on modern sport

24 Apr 2015
Photographed at the President's door in UCC with Corky the Cheetah were Ger Prendergast and Olivia Frawley (Photo: Tomas Tyner)

Journalist Stephen Walsh reflects on George Boole’s sporting legacy in 2015 as UCC celebrates the 200th anniversary of his birth with a series of events. 

(Originally written for a Cork City Football Club (CCFC) match programme. UCC is a proud partner of CCFC and wishes them the best of luck as they take on Dundalk tonight, Friday 24 April, in the SSE Airtricity League).

You might recognise the name George Boole from the signs and posters visible around the city in recent months, but do you know what he accomplished during his time in Cork and at UCC?

George Boole was born in 1815 in Lincoln and is described as the forefather of the information age. His father was a tradesman but young Boole showed a capacity for learning far beyond his young years. He taught himself modern languages, an asset that allowed him to become a junior teacher at the age of 16 in Doncaster.

After four years of teaching, he opened his own school at the age of 19, which he managed for four years before taking over Halls Academy in Waddington in the UK. As an educator, Boole built up relationships with academics throughout England and it was at this point he began to exchange ideas with his peers about algebra and various mathematical systems. With his knowledge of maths improving, he began to publish research papers that became recognised internationally.

The theory he developed called Boolean Logic (published in the book “An Investigation of the Laws of Thought”) is applied through the binary number system that differentiates between 0 and 1 on any computer system, or in more basic terms, true and false. In 1849 at the age of thirty-four and without a university degree, Boole was appointed the professor of mathematics at UCC. Imagine your university professor not having a degree in this day and age!

He proved a very capable academic while in UCC, publishing numerous books and ideas that are still used today. He is best known for inventing the Boolean Identity in 1854, where he explained the algebraic functions that are now commonplace in all computer systems. It is impossible to use a smartphone, PS4 or Xbox without Boolean logic and as a result sports, science and even match analysis wouldn’t exist were it not for Boole’s genius.

During tonight’s game, you’ll see many examples of Boolean theories in use.

  • The bookmakers you may have placed a bet with will have used this theory probability (e.g. win/lose).
  • The kettle for the half-time cuppa will use zeros and ones in order to boil the water (e.g. on/off).
  • Even the numbers on the back of the jerseys will have been digitally printed using Boolean technology.
  • Last year’s All-Ireland Hurling final was decided by Boolean Logic when Hawk-Eye used the system to rule out a late Tipperary point (e.g. score/wide).
  • Similarly, the much debated goal-line technology used in the English Premier League would not be possible without George Boole.
  • Beyond sport, Java and Pascal computer languages use Boolean Logic, while the moon even has a crater called “Boole” named after his mathematical discoveries.

Boole died in 1864 from pneumonia after walking home to Lichfield Cottage, Blackrock in the rain without a coat.

The legacy of Boole is preserved everywhere one goes in the world if you look closely enough.

Learn more about George Boole and how UCC is celebrating his legacy at   

*For more information on UCC Sport go to or download the app from the App store.

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