Boole - Ancestors & Descendants

GEORGE BOOLE (1815-1864) researched by Rev R.H.P.Boole

It is given to few people in this world to have their names become adjectives, without a capital letter. George Boole is among their company with Boolean algebra named after him. Without doubt he is the most famous of the Boole family. He was described to me by Canon Peter Binnall, sub-dean of Lincoln Cathedral "as the most eminent Citizen that Lincoln has so far produced". He was born in Lincoln on November 2nd 1815 and had a very simple education. After leaving his local Elementary School he went for a short time to a commercial school but his real interests were linguistic. To this end he took lessons in Latin from a Lincoln bookseller, Mr. William Brooke who became one of his closest friends. He then taught himself Greek and later French and German from borrowed books. When he started to study the classics Boole wanted to be a clergyman. According to E.T.Bell, who wrote an imaginative but very readable account of Boole in his "Men of Mathematics", this desire was inspired by a snobbish wish to raise himself into a higher class of society than that into which he had been born.

There is, however, not the slightest evidence in Boole’s papers or letters or in anything that his contemporaries wrote about him that this was true.

On the contrary, all his published non-mathematical work, as well as the accounts of those who knew him, show him to be a person whose thoughts were continually directed to, and his acts directed by his religious convictions so that it was very natural that he should want to enter the Church. Contemporaries who have recorded their impressions of his sense of social distinctions agree that he had none at all. Mary Everest Boole wrote of him: "He had very heterodox notions on the subject of the selection of one's acquaintances. He simply ignored all theories which suppose that one is to keep one's visiting list within certain social levels; only he had as little as possible to do with rich people who made a display of their wealth, and refused ever to let his children visit them. I knew the mothers and sisters of students in all ranks of life. I have had people to spend an evening with me of whom he could tell me nothing except that he "had met them at a railway station, and thought they might like to see the telescope", or he had "gone into a shop and found the man behind the counter intelligent, so he had asked him to come and have some more talk about optics". I have had a street band from town brought down to lunch in our garden". George Boole started to read mathematics when he was an assistant at a small school in Doncaster. We next find him holding a similar position at a boarding school at Waddington near Lincoln. Later he started his own school in Minster Yard, Lincoln and we find all the family, with the exception of brother, Charles Boole, in residence there at the census of 1841.


The following is a  notice concerning the school that appeared in the Lincoln Rutland and Stamford Mercury of January 19th 1849:


Mr. Boole's Academy, Minster Yard, Lincoln.

Terms for Board and English Education:

For Pupils under 10 years of age per annum 24 guineas
Above that age and under 14 per annum 26 guineas
Above 14 years of age per annum 28 guineas

For Parlour Boarders, an addition of one half to the terms above stated.
Latin, Greek, French, Drawings etc. will involve an extra charge

The School will re-open on Wednesday, January 24th. The arrangement of the studies for the ensuing term, with further particulars, may be learnt on application.


A turning point came towards the end of 1849 when the senate of the new Queen’s College, Cork showed good sense in offering the degreeless George Boole the chair of mathematics and the deanship of science.



The Lincolnshire Chronicle of August 17th 1849 reported

"The public will be glad to learn that Mr. Geo. Boole, of this City, whose mathematical attainments and writings have been known to the Mathematical World for some time, has been appointed to a Professorship in Mathematics in Queen's College Cork. It is understood that the appointment is sufficiently valuable to enable Mr, Boole to give undivided attention to the study in which he has distinguished himself."

His father had died on December 12th 1848 and his mother could not be prevailed upon to cross the Irish channel. He therefore made provision for her maintenance and comfort during the reminder of her days.


George Boole's  death was reported in the Lincolnshire Chronicle of December 16th 1864:-

"'The late Professor Boole, FRS - This week our obituary contains the announcement of the death of the above eminent mathematician, who was well known and highly esteemed in Lincoln, where he kept an academy for several years. As the 'Times' truly says, he was one of those men known to a limited circle, but within that circle the object of an affectionate respect approaching to veneration. The Professorship of Mathematics which Dr. Boole held in Queen's College, Cork, would not of itself make the holder celebrated, and the work which he published from time to time dealt with such abstruse questions of mathematical and metaphysical inquiry that they could be appreciated only by a few. Those who were capable of understanding their value held him in the highest estimation, and will look upon the premature death of their author as a grave loss to the world of thought… But the quality which, perhaps, most marked him out from his fellows was an intellectual modesty such as he once described as 'inseparable from a pure devotion to truth'. It was not that he was unduly shy or retiring, but that he appeared absolutely insensible to his claims upon the attention of others. Death has checked the development of his character here, but the memory of his gifts and graces will be jealously preserved by those he has left behind, and most of all by a widow and children now sorrowing...

The subjoined acrostic, Written by Mrs. Austin Turner (sister to Mr. R. Hall), was given to Professor Boole in 1846, long before he left Lincoln for Cork:-

"Great men, thy fame will live when thou art gone,
Ennobling thee far more than sculptur'd stone.
O'er thee no marble monument need rise
Relating thy great work to vulgar eyes;
Genius will bid thy name for ever live;
Envy to thee its praises then will give.
But thou willt yet, I hope, the merit reap
Of thy vast works e're thou in death shall sleep.
On thee may honours multiply and fall,
Long, long may'st thou in health enjoy them all,
Enrich'd as is thy mind with wisdom's call."


Children of George Boole & Mary Anne (Joyce)

Mary Ellen Boole 1856 -

Margaret Boole 1858 - 1935

Alice Boole 1860 - 1940

Lucy Everest Boole 1862 - 1905

Ethel Lilian Boole 1864 - 1960

The You Tube production Forgotten Genius - George Boole may be of interest in knowing more about his life and Algebra