Monday’s Google Doodle honoured George Boole. Or it didn’t.

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL November 3, 2015

google doodle george booleThat headline is a Boolean statement in two sentences. (I’ll explain the logic of this briefly – a Google doodle could be a huge honour or just another short-term cynical marketing move.)

Anyway, 200 years ago, the self-taught mathematician brought the language of algebra to the field of logic. True and false. True or false. Or not. The fact that computer engineers use these in algebra is down to Boole. By extrapolation, he is the reason we have computers. And Google. And Amazon.

At least that’s what film producer, David Puttnam, who is sometimes called Ireland’s ‘Digital Champion’, says. In the documentary The Genius of George Boole, which was commissioned by Ireland’s University College Cork, at which Boole taught, Lord Puttnam asks rhetorically, “Is George Boole important? I guess, no George Boole, no Google, no Amazon, no Intel…that makes him pretty important.”

Interestingly, Boole’s great-grandson, Geoffrey Hinton, is a professor at the university of Toronto and is considered one of the world’s leading experts on artificial intelligence. He says that “anyone who knows how computers work knows about Boolean logic…that’s right down there at the basis of modern computers.” As The Economist says, Boole, along with his contemporaries Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, is remembered as one of the Victorian pioneers of modern computing.

A Google doodle is definitely not an honour. Or it is. One or the other.