6th July 2015, 10:10am
Exhibition to celebrate the life and legacy of George Boole – the forefather of the information age
George Boole A new exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of one of the world’s finest mathematicians, who we have to thank for the technology behind all modern-day computers, will open in his home city this summer.

George Boole, who was born in Lincoln in 1815, was a self-taught mathematical genius whose work forms the basis of computer science and electronic circuitry. Boole laid the foundations of the digital era and is widely recognised as the forefather of the information age.

To celebrate the bicentenary of his birth, the University of Lincoln, UK, will host an illuminating exhibition showcasing a timeline of Boole’s life through an extensive archive of his correspondence, academic work and personal items. Taking place in the University of Lincoln’s award-winning Great Central Warehouse Library, The Life and Legacy of George Boole, will run from Monday 13th July – Friday 11th September 2015. The exhibition is open to all and is free to attend.

The Life and Legacy of George Boole has been created by the institution at which Boole spent much of his academic career, University College Cork, where the same exhibition will run simultaneously. It was during his time in Cork that Boole wrote his most influential work, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought, which was published in 1854 and centred on his theory of logic and probabilities.

Ian Snowley, Librarian at the University of Lincoln, said: “George Boole is one of the key figures in Lincoln’s history, whose impact on mathematics, logic and computing makes him someone who should be celebrated today. I’m delighted that we are able to stage this exhibition in Lincoln, Boole’s birthplace, at the same time as it is held in Cork, his adopted home. This is also the first time we’ve been able to mount an exhibition in the University Library, and I look forward to welcoming visitors from across the city and the county.”

Boole was born on 2nd November 1815 into modest family circumstances in Lincoln, where his father was a shoemaker and his mother a lady’s maid. He went on to work as a teacher and devoted himself to the study of mathematics. In 1844 he was awarded the Royal Society’s first Royal Medal for Mathematics, and became the first Professor of Mathematics at Queen’s College Cork in 1849.

The full potential of Boole’s ideas lay unrealised for seventy years until American engineer Claude Shannon recognised the relevance of Boole’s symbolic logic. Shannon used Boole’s Mathematical Analysis of Logic to establish the basis of modern digital computer circuits. It took almost a century for George Boole’s work to see fruition, but the simplicity and genius behind Boole’s ideas eventually came into their own.

Today, his legacy surrounds us everywhere – the modern computing device, whether it is a mobile phone, iPad, tablet computer or mainframe work station is essentially a Boolean calculator where information such as video, photos and audio are digitised and processed for our work and enjoyment.

The Life and Legacy of George Boole is backed by funding from the London Mathematical Society as part of its Local Heroes Exhibitions initiative. It is supported by the University of Lincoln’s School of Mathematics and Physics, The Lincoln Boole Foundation and Lincoln Cathedral.

In October, the exhibition will move to Lincoln Cathedral, where there is an ornate stained glass window celebrating George Boole as one of the city’s greats. Later this year, there will also be a series of public lectures celebrating Boole’s life and legacy taking place at the Cathedral and the University of Lincoln.

Dr Evgeny Khukhro, Senior Lecturer in Lincoln’s School of Mathematics and Physics and member of the London Mathematical Society, said: “George Boole was a true local hero. He taught himself to become one of the most influential minds of the 19th century and his work shows us that mathematics is a most creative and forward-looking subject. His development of mathematical logic was revolutionary for the subject, and particularly to algebra, which is one of the key focuses of our research here at Lincoln. Boole’s intellectual heroism continues to inspire us in our quest for new mathematical discoveries.”

As part of The Life and Legacy of George Boole, an interpretation panel will be created for the Cathedral window to inform visitors about his achievements, as well as a special Boole Walking Tour map around Lincoln, ensuring the city continues to remember one of its most influential sons.