George
Boole (2 November 1815 – 8 December 1864) , the British mathematician whose
work on logic laid many of the foundations for the digital revolution, has been
honoured on the 200th anniversary of his birth with a special Google Doodle.

He
was an English mathematician, educator, philosopher and logician. He worked in
the fields of differential equations and algebraic logic, and is best known as
the author of The Laws of Thought which contains Boolean algebra. Boolean logic
is credited with laying the foundations for the information age.

George
Boole was the son of a shopkeeper. This working class of people was not given a
high level of education. He had common schooling and a commercial course. His
father, who had studied some mathematics privately, tutored George in the
subject.

George
wanted to learn Latin and Greek so that he could advance in society. He was
given some basic tutoring from the local bookseller, a friend of his father.
George managed to learn Latin by himself. At the age of 12, he translated an
ode of Horace into English. His father was proud and had his work printed in
the local paper. Several critics denied a boy of his age could do such work,
but they also pointed out his errors. George was humiliated.

George
spent the next two years studying Latin and Greek. At the age of 16 he was
ready to find a profession that would allow him to support his aging parents.
Boole worked as an assistant teacher at two schools over the next four years.
He was not satisfied with the low wages and looked for another profession. He
could not afford the Army or the Law, and he didn't like the teacher's wages,
so he focused on the Church.

After
four years of preparation to be a clergyman, his parents persuaded him back to
teaching. He did learn French, German and Italian while studying to become a
clergyman, languages that would help him later in mathematics.

At
age 20, George Boole opened his own school. He had to begin teaching
mathematics to his pupils, which sparked his own interest in math. Dissatisfied
with the textbooks, he began reading Laplace and Lagrange for ideas. Inspired
by ideas in their work, he wrote his first mathematical paper on the calculus
of variations. During this time, Boole also discovered invariants.

Boole
began submitting his work to the Cambridge Mathematical Journal. The editor,
Duncan Gregory liked his papers and published them in the journal. Gregory
suggested that Boole study at Cambridge, but he could not quit teaching because
he supported his parents financially.

Boole
began studying algebra as Gregory suggested. His work was soon published and
awarded. In August 1849, Boole was appointed as a professor of mathematics at
Queens College, Cork. Within two years, he was named Dean of Science.

In
1854, Boole published An Investigation into the Laws of Thought, on Which are
founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities. Boole suggested
that logic and algebraic symbols were similar. By tying logic and algebra,
Boole allowed algebra to be viewed as purely abstract. Today, computer
programming is based upon Boolean algebra.

George
Boole married Mary Everest (daughter of George Everest, for whom the mountain
is named) in 1855. Boole encouraged his wife to study at the college. They had
five daughters.

George
Boole died on December 8, 1864, after several weeks of fighting a lung
infection. George had walked to college in the rain, lectured, and returned
home which prompted the sickness.

George
Boole's contributions to mathematics have very modern applications: computer
programming, electrical engineering, satellite pictures, telephone circuits and
even Einstein's theory of relativity.

His
legacy was Boolean logic, a theory of mathematics in which all variables are
either "true" or "false", or "on" or
"off". The theory proceeded the digital age, with American Claude
Shannon applying Boolean logic to build the electrical circuits in the 1930s
that led to modern computers.
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