Nature | Editorial



Smooth operator

A tribute to the nineteenth-century polymath whose algebra lets you search the Internet.

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IF George Boole had lived, then he would have celebrated his 200th birthday this week. NOT that it makes any sense to say such a thing OR to write it. People do NOT live that long. And if there was one thing that George Boole is known for, it is logic. AND mathematics AND philosophy. Three things. NOT one thing.

The combination of mathematics AND logic AND philosophy is NOT easy for many people to follow OR understand. So Boole is usually associated with the three words NOT AND OR. They are called Boolean operators AND they can be combined to make AND NOT. That’s because the Boolean operator OR does NOT really mean OR, which usually means AND NOT.

It is NOT always easy to follow these logical constructions when they are written in words. That is why so many people call George Boole a genius. Because he did NOT have the same trouble. AND because he invented them OR applied them to mathematics. Without George Boole, people say that the modern world would NOT have been the same, with no computers OR electronics. Although a nice thing to say, it is probably NOT true AND someone else could have come up with the idea OR something similar. After all, Boole himself is a good example, who shows that ideas AND NOT inventions can come from an unlikely source.

He did NOT have a formal education OR academic training. He taught himself languages including Latin AND Greek AND calculus. He wrote scientific papers on how to represent logical relations as symbols AND algebraic equations. Despite NOT having a university education, he was appointed professor of mathematics at Queen’s College Cork in Ireland.

The weather in Ireland is often NOT dry and Boole caught pneumonia after walking to the college in heavy rain. His wife, Mary, a prominent mathematician, was NOT as skilled at medicine. She soaked her husband’s sheets with water AND made him shiver with cold. It did NOT help AND, sadly, he died.

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