Monday 2 November 2015

George Boole born 2/11/1815

Today Google is celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of George Boole, with an animated logo.

So who was George Boole and why is his work relevant today?

George Boole -
picture credit Wikipedia

George Boole was a British mathematician and logician and was ahead of his time. Until his time, logic was a subject mainly applied to philosophy and natural language. Boole was the first to apply logic to mathematics in a systematic way. By doing this, his work paved the way for the digital revolution and "Boolean logic" was a precursor for the way computers perform their calculations.

Boolean logic treats variables as either on or off (true or false, or 1 or 0). In the 1930s, the American Claude Shannon applied Boolean logic to build the first electrical circuits.

Today Boolean logic underpins almost every computer program in some way. For example, if you search the web for a two-word term, such as "cheesy chips", the search engine's algorithms will apply an AND operation, and bring you web pages where the two words BOTH appear. You would not find it very useful if the results shown were pages where either "cheesy" OR "chips" were on the page.

Different parts of the Google logo light up when the x and y in the second g are shown. See if you can work out the rules.

As well as inventing this field of logic, George Boole published work on differential equations and probability theory. He died aged just 49 in 1864 and will be remembered as an important pioneer of the information age.

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