George Boole, One of the Great Unsung Architects of Today’s World, Is Unsung No More


Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Boole, the English logician and mathematician who laid the foundation of the digital age with his pioneering book The Laws of Thought in 1854, published during the 16 years he served as the first Professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College, Cork (now University College Cork) in Ireland.


Boolean algebra and Boolean circuit design are what make digital computers tick today, freeing them from the drudgery of mere number crunching and turning them into machines capable of making decisions.. The seismic shift in electrical engineering which made this possible, thereby leading to modern computer science, happened thanks to Claude Shannon. Shannon picked up Boole’s logical thread in the late 1930s after learning about his ideas in a philosophy class he took at MIT. Boole, it is now clear, was a man at least 80 years ahead of his time.

In his Foreword to Des MacHale’s excellent The Life and Work of George Boole–A Prelude to the Digital Age (Cork University Press), modern day English mathematician Ian Stewart writes that Boole is “one of the great unsung architects of today’s world” on account of his foundational role in ushering in the digital world of True/False, O/1 and AND/OR and NOT web searches.


Boole is unsung no more: today Google is honoring him worldwide with a personalized doodle, as shown above. Well, almost worldwide: the USA is conspicuously absent from the celebration as this Google map reveals:


(The Google doodle in USA today celebrates The Day of the Dead, which they may argue includes Boole.)

Even better, George Boole is also literally unsung —> Read More