George Boole, the son of a cobbler, was born in Lincoln, England, in November 1815. Because of his family’s difficult financial situation, Boole had to struggle to educate himself while supporting his family. Nevertheless, he became one of the most important mathematicians of the 1800s. Although he considered a career as a clergyman, he decided instead to go into teaching and soon afterward opened a school of his own. In his preparation for teaching mathematics, Boole – unsatisfied with textbooks of his day – decided to read the works of great the great mathematicians. While reading papers of the great French mathematician Lagrange, Boole made discoveries in the calculus of variations, the branch of analysis dealing with finding curves and surfaces optimizing certain parameters.
In 1848 Boole published The Mathematical Analysis of Logic, the first of his contributions to symbolic logic. In 1849 he was appointed professor of mathematics at Queen’s College in Cork, Ireland. In 1854 he published The Laws of Thought, his most famous work. In this book, Boole introduced what is now called Boolean algebra in his honor. Boole wrote textbooks on differential equations and on difference equations that were used in Great Britain until the end of the nineteenth century. Boole married in 1855; his wife was niece of the professor of Greek at Queen’s College. In 1864 Boole died from pneumonia, which he contracted as a result of keeping a lecture engagement even though he was soaking wet from a rainstorm.