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George Boole (1815 - 1864)

Go BackMathematician, Logican, Precursor to the Information Age
See Also: Logic | Boolian Algebra | Mathematics | Information Technology

Selected Manuscripts on Logic and PhilosophyGeorge Boole : Selected Manuscripts on Logic and Its Philosophy by George Boole, Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Gerard Bornet (Editor)

George Boole (1815-1864) is well known to mathematicians for his research and textbooks on the calculus, but his name has spread world-wide for his innovations in symbolic logic and the development and applications made since his day. The utility of "Boolean algebra" in computing has greatly increased curiosity in the nature and extent of his achievements. His work is most accessible in his two books on logic, A Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1747) and An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1754). But at various times he wrote essays, especially after the publication of the second book; several were intended for a non-technical work, "The Philosophy of Logic", which he was not able to complete. This volume contains an edited selection which not only relates them to Boole's publications and the historical context of his time, but also describes their strange history as family, followers and scholars have tried to confect an edition.

The book will appeal to logicians, mathematicians and philosophers, and those interested in the histories of the corresponding subjects, and also students of the early Victorian Britain in which these papers were written.

George Boole -- Biography

Essay by Eileen Harrison, Lincoln Cathedral Guide,  for the Information Desk at Lincoln Cathedral. 1993. (Archived)


Today, George Boole is rightly regarded as one of the founding fathers of computing and information technology. George Boole is the unsung hero of the Information Revolution. It was his genius that set the scene for all the technological innovation that we take for granted today, from digital recordings and television through to the Internet itself...


George Boole
From the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of St Andrews, Scotland


George Boole first attended a school in Lincoln, then a commercial school. His early instruction in mathematics, however, was from his father who also gave George a liking for constructing optical instruments. George's interests turned to languages and he received instruction in Latin from a local bookseller.

By the age of 12 George had become so skilled in Latin that it provoked an argument. He translated an ode by the Latin poet Horace which his father was so proud of that he had it published. However the talent was such that a local schoolmaster disputed that any 12 year old could have written with such depth...


George Boole

From the Dictionary of the Philosophy of Mind, entry by Tadeusz Zawidzki (Archived)


Boole was mostly self-educated. He spent his academic career at Queen’s College in Cork, Ireland (1849-1864). Boole’s first book, Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847), argued that logic is a branch of mathematics rather than metaphysics...


George Boole -- Online Text:  The Calculus of Logic

Published in the Cambridge and Dublin Mathematical Journal
Vol. III (1848), pp. 183-98


In a work lately published I have exhibited the application of a new and peculiar form of Mathematics to the expression of the operations of the mind in reasoning. In the present essay I design to offer such an account of a portion of this treatise as may furnish a correct view of the nature of the system developed. I shall endeavour to state distinctly those positions in which its characteristic distinctions consist, and shall offer a more particular illustration of some features which are less prominently displayed in the original work. The part of the system to which I shall confine my observations is that which treats of categorical propositions, and the positions which, under this limitation, I design to illustrate, are the following:

(1) That the business of Logic is with the relations of classes, and with the modes in which the mind contemplates those relations.

(2) That antecedently to our recognition of the existence of propositions, there are laws to which the conception of a class is subject, - laws which are dependent upon the constitution of the intellect, and which determine the character and form of the reasoning process.

(3) That those laws are capable of mathematical expression, and that they thus constitute the basis of an interpretable calculus.

(4) That those laws are, furthermore, such, that all equations which are formed in subjection to them, even though expressed under functional signs, admit of perfect solution, so that every problem in logic can be solved by reference to a general theorem.

(5) That the forms under which propositions are actually exhibited, in accordance with the principles of this calculus, are analogous with those of a philosophical language.

(6) That although the symbols of the calculus do not depend for their interpretation upon the idea of quantity, they nevertheless, in their particular application to syllogism, conduct us to the quantitative conditions of inference.

It is specially of the two last of these positions that I here desire to offer illustration, they having been but partially exemplified in the work referred to. Other points will, however, be made the subjects of incidental discussion...


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