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Boole’s premature death

George Boole’s life came to a tragic and untimely end in 1864 at the age of 49.

Boole had never enjoyed the most robust of health. In relation to his delicate constitution Mary Boole is quoted as saying that he suffered from

‘hereditary disease of the lungs, aggravated by residence in a damp climate, with a nervous system sensitive in the highest degree.’

George died of pneumonia on 8 December 1864 at his home in Ballintemple.

On 24 November he had walked about three miles from his home to the university in pouring rain. He conducted the lecture he was so anxious not to miss in wet clothes and immediately developed a feverish cold. His weak constitution offered little resistance and his lungs rapidly became infected. But as a believer in the relatively new discipline of homeopathy, Mary Boole held very unorthodox medical beliefs. By putting her husband to bed and drenching him in water she may have unwittingly hastened his early death.

The great George Boole was laid to rest at St Michael’s Church of Ireland churchyard at Blackrock, County Cork.

His simple gravestone reads:

‘George Boole, Died December 8 1864’.

But a plaque placed within the church by his widow, gives more of a clue to his noble life. It reads:

‘To the memory of George Boole, LLD, DCL, FRS, Cork, in whom the highest order of intellect cultivated by unwearied industry produced the fruits of deep humility and childlike trust. He was born in Lincoln on 2 Nov. 1815 and died at Ballintemple on the 8 Dec. 1864. For ever O Lord Thy word is settled in Heaven.’