John Boole (1777-1848)
From: GEORGE BOOLE, F.R.S. in the British Quarterly Review, July 1866 by the Revved. Robert Hartley (included as Appendix A in George Boole's "Studies in Logic and Probability" published by Watts & Co. 1952)
His father (John Boole) was a tradesman of very limited means, but held in high esteem by those who knew him. Having nothing to support his family but his daily toil, it was not to be expected that he could expend much on the education of his children; yet they were not neglected. Being himself a man of thoughtful and studious habits, possessed of an active and ingenious mind, and attached to the pursuit of science, particularly of mathematics, he sought to imbue his children with a love of learning, and employed his leisure hours in imparting to them the elements of education. The estimation in which his abilities were held by his wife will be learnt from the following little incident, which was told to the writer of this article some years ago by an eminent mathematician, the present Chief Justice of Queensland. Our friend was then a barrister on the Midland circuit, and having read with' deep interest some of Boole's earliest mathematical papers, he desired to make his acquaintance, and being in Lincoln, called at his residence. He was not at home at the time: but meeting with his mother our friend entered into a conversation with her, in the course of which he took occasion to congratulate her on having so talented a son. "Yes", she said, "I dare say
George is clever - very clever; but did you know his father, sir?" "No" replied he "I had not the pleasure". "Ah", said the old lady with evident emotion, "he was a Philosopher!". And no doubt she thought there was not his equal in the world.
Boole came from a family of farmers and small tradesmen who lived in and around Lincoln. The earliest member of the family who has been traced was Joshua Boole, who was born in 1670. None of the family seems to be in any way remarkable except John Boole, George Boole's father. John Boole was a cobbler, but his real interest lay in mathematics and in making optical instruments. His parents must I think, have been fairly prosperous, for I have inherited some silver table spoons dated 1789 bearing John Boole's monogram. Perhaps they were Confirmation gifts, for he was only 12 in 1789. Another thing I have inherited is a box made by John Boole for a microscope that he had made. In the lid is pasted a note in my grandmother's handwriting giving this information and adding, "He seems to have been able to do anything well except his own business of managing the shop". John Boole was evidently a well-known character in Lincoln. He was largely instrumental in founding the Mechanics' Institute there, to give people an interest in the leisure hours, and it was partly due to his agitation that the early closing of shops was enforced so that the leisure was available. George helped him in this work and when early closing was introduced he gave a lecture on the right use of leisure, which, though full of admirable advice beautifully expressed, must have seemed a counsel of perfection to his audience. Among the optical instruments that John Boole made was a telescope. When this was finished he put a notice in his shop, "Anyone who wishes to observe the work of God in a spirit of reverence is invited to come in and look through my telescope".
Children Of John Boole and Mary Anne (Joyce)
Mary Anne Boole 1817 - 1887
William John Boole 1819 - 1888