Boole’s impact on technology is explored on film

The impact of mathematician George Boole’s work on technology today is explored in a new film commissioned by University College Cork to be screened on RTÉ next month.

Narrated by Oscar- winning actor Jeremy Irons The Genius of George Boole assembles academics and industry leaders from across the globe to explore the life and importance of one of the world’s greatest unsung heroes.

The film, which will be broadcast on September 1, shines new light on the legacy of George Boole, recognised as the forefather of the information age.

World-renowned film producer and Ireland’s Digital Champion, Lord David Puttnam, sets the scene for the film by posing the question: “Is George Boole important?” Puttnam continues: “I guess, no George Boole, no Google, no Amazon.”

Sitting in his office at Google, Professor Geoffrey Hinton, the world’s leading expert on artificial intelligence and Boole’s great-great-grandson, comments: “Anyone who knows how computers work knows about Boolean logic …that’s right down there at the basis of modern computing.”

According to Intel vice president Rory McInerney: “At the core of the computer chip is essentially a switch, an on/off switch; in today’s chip this is on a silicon chip so you have a transistor.” As the film shows, the grand designer of this elegantly simple yet radical idea is George Boole.

Filmed in Ireland, UK and the US, the documentary investigates Boole’s life and motivations, from his humble background as a cobbler’s son from Lincoln, England, born in 1815.

Boole’s genius became apparent from a young age. Without a university education and given his family background, finding a role within the formal structures of British society was challenging for the young Boole.

and it looks back at how and why the newly founded Queen’s College, Cork (now UCC) opened in 1849, provided him with a job as its first professor of mathematics and the financial resources to support his family back in England.

Importantly, the role in Cork gave Boole the freedom to pursue his mathematical research, while coping with witnessing the social inequalities in Cork after the Great Famine.T


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