George Boole Biography. English Mathematician and Logician Famous for Boolean Algebra. Best known for Boolean logic, George Boole invented the Boolean algebra, basis of modern computer arithmetic. Rather than using words to express logical relations, Boolean algebra uses mathematical symbols.
Boole wrote two treatises: Treatise on Differential Equations (1859) and Treatise on the Calculus of Finite Differences (1860). The Boolean Crater of the moon has been named after him.
The Early Life of George Boole
George Boole was born on November 2, 1815 in Lincoln, Lincolnshire, England. He was mainly self-taught, studying the works of Isaac Newton, French mathematicians Pierre S. Laplace and Joseph de Lagrange. He did not receive a degree, but was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Cork University in 1849. He was one of the first to direct attention to the theory of invariants, expressions in variables that don’t change when the coordinates change.
In 1855, he married Mary Everest, niece of Sir George Everest, after whom Mt. Everest is named. They had five daughters.
Plato’s Metaphysics to Boole’s Mathematics
Ever since the time of Plato, the ways of finding to develop a logical argument had been critical part of philosophy. Boole, being a son of a small shopkeeper, had little knowledge of the previous system of logic and debate represented by Platonism, and could not afford a formal education so he largely taught himself mathematics.
While he was working as a teacher in local schools in Yorkshire, he also started writing papers on mathematics. Boole believed that there was a close analogy between symbols that represent logical interactions and algebraic symbols.
Boolean Logic and Boolean Algebra
Boole developed an analytical process that allowed thought processes to be broken into individual smaller steps by which each step involves making a proposition that either true (assigns 1) or false (assigns 0). His algebraic treatment of differential operators gradually led him to also consider the operations of logic algebraically.
Answers from the mathematical steps are combined by using one of the three operators, now known as Boolean operators: “and,” “or” or “not.” This comprises the Boolean algebra that now forms the basis of electronic switching circuits, including the telephone switching equipment, and other computer designs.
Boolean algebra can transform complex decision trees that produce logical results. The Boolean operators are used in structured computer languages.
George Boole’s Contribution and Legacy
A modest man, he did not seek rewards although he deserved far greater recognition. He as well respected by both peers and friends. Along with Gottlob Frege, Boole is considered one of the founders of symbolic logic. Boole received a medal from the prestigious Royal Society for his memoir of 1844. He also got an honorary degree of LL.D. from the University of Dublin. He died at the age of 49, on December 8, 1864.
Boole insisted that logic should be a branch of mathematics rather than philosophy. His Boolean algebra is a generalization of the familiar operations of arithmetic, most useful in the design of circuits and computers. With this widely known mathematical concept, Boolean algebra also produced works for which Boole is best remembered for: Laws of Thought, on which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities.
Although computers did not exist in his day, Boole would be pleased to know that his Boolean algebra is the basis of all computer arithmetic. In this respect, George Boole can be regarded as a pioneer and founding father of computer science.