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Double Take: The Leeside house that inspired a world-famous mathematician

George Boole produced some of his most famous work at 5 Grenville Place.
Jun 20th 2018, 5:01 PM 1,025 0

OVERLOOKING THE RIVER Lee’s North Channel on the corner of Cork’s Georgian Quarter is the former home of George Boole, one of the most influential mathematicians of the nineteenth century.

Boole, often described as the founder of pure mathematics, lived and worked in 5 Grenville Place from 1849 until his premature death in 1855, at the age of forty-nine.

Born in Lincoln, England in 1815, Boole was forced to leave school at sixteen due to his family’s limited financial resources. A self-educated prodigy – proficient in several languages, natural philosophy and mathematics – he took a job, at sixteen, as an assistant teacher to support his family.

By the age of eighteen, he had established a boarding school for boys in his hometown before going on to develop several mathematical theories still taught in schools today.

Prior to his relocation to Ireland, Boole’s work formed the basis of today’s computer science and electronic circuitry. Notably, Alan Turing used Boolean logic to develop the first digital computer in the 1930s.

From 1849, Boole held the position of the first professor of mathematics in Queen’s College, now University College Cork. He moved to the tall terraced house at 5 Grenville Place where he lodged with Raymond de Vericour, a professor of modern languages.

The house is intrinsically associated with some of Boole’s most important work. It’s there  he wrote his seminal work, An Investigation Into The Laws of Thought (1854),  which addressed his theory of logic and probability. In the preface of the book, Boole described the window by his writing desk, as documented on UCC’s in-depth biography of the academic;

“Opposite the window of the room in which I write is a field, liable to be overflowed from two causes, distinct but capable of being combined, viz. floods from the upper sources of The River Lee and the tides from the ocean.”

Whilst teaching in Cork, he met his wife, Mary Everest. Boole left 5 Grenville Place shortly after they married in 1855, leaving the house abandoned. The dilapidated building partially collapsed in October 2010.

In 2011, former Cork City Manager, Tim Lucey revealed that “preliminary discussions” had taken place between UCC and Cork City Council to repair the building.

Boole's in the Sunshine #renovation #corkcity #georgeboole

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Today, the restoration of George Boole’s house nears completion. As reported by UCC the future of the building looks bright with “an ambitious plan to preserve George Boole’s legacy in his adopted city”.

The location is set to “provide an incubation centre for business start-ups, and a conference facility to support innovation and investment.”

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