2016 Press Releases

Boole Shannon Symposium today at MIT

18 Mar 2016
The Boole Shannon Symposium will celebrate the "Transatlantic Founders of the Information Age."

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is today (March 18) hosting a symposium with a fantastic line-up of speakers to celebrate the lives and achievements of George Boole and Claude Shannon.

The Boole/Shannon Celebration is a year-long celebration of events centred around the work of George Boole, who was born 200 years ago, and Claude E. Shannon, born 100 years ago. 

In his presentation titled The Life and Legacy of George Boole (1815 – 1864), UCC president Dr Michael Murphy will set out Boole’s life story from self-education as a poor child in Lincoln, England, to his appointment as Professor of Mathematics at Queens College Cork in Ireland 1849, the publication of his seminal book, “An Investigation of the Laws of Thought” in 1854 and early death.

The origin and impact of his intellectual legacy, ingeniously recognised by Claude Shannon at MIT in the 1930s will be set out. In addition to emphasising Boole’s story as an exemplar of “useful useless research” the case for continued investment in curiosity-driven “blue skies research” will be emphasised.

Professor Barry O'Sullivan, Director of the Insight Centre for Data Analytics will discuss ‘The Legacy of George Boole: from Boolean Satisfiability to Sustainability,” and offer examples of how Boole’s work leaves a legacy in solving extremely challenging and important problems in sustainability.

Dr Patrick G. O'Shea, Vice President and Chief Research Officer at the University of Maryland, will deliver a short history of the pioneering, unreasonable, entrepreneurial, irrational, revolutionary, relentless, daring and crazy spirit of Irish scientific exploration and discovery.

Phil Fleming, CTO of North America at Nokia Networks, who will discuss how advances in mathematics impact the communications industry; James Whelton, co-founder of CoderDojo, who will talk about how “in modern software and hardware development, we stand on the shoulders of giants. The work by George Boole and Claude Shannon is being utilized by young people all over the world today, from Cork to Boston to Madagascar.”

Robert Gray of Stanford University and Boston University will present on Boole/Shannon and Edmund Berkeley, a co-founder of the ACM and a pushy proselytizer of Boolean algebra and Claude Shannon's 1938 paper within the nascent computing machinery community. 

In 1955 Berkeley hired Shannon as a consultant to Berkeley 4 Enterprises to help design and develop projects for small ``computers'' to be sold by mail for under $20 to boys and hobbyists to learn about computers, logic, and Boolean algebra. Gray’s talk will tell the story of Geniac, the resulting ``electric brain'' introduced in 1955, from the point of view of a former 13 year old who bought one in 1956 and began thereby a lifelong odyssey with binary numbers.

The Boole/Shannon Celebration is a year-long celebration of events centred around the work of George Boole, who was born 200 years ago, and Claude E. Shannon, born 100 years ago. 

Singleton Auditorium, 46-3002, MIT

13:00 – 17:30



The Conversations Project at UCC has captured reflections from leading academics in the area of mathematics and computer sciences. The first tranche of interviews were released on George Boole Day. A second tranche of interviews with scholars, who in several cases personally knew Claude Shannon during his tenure at MIT, has now been released to coincide with the symposium.

University College Cork

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