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Publication of the Laws of Thought

In 1854 Boole published his widely acknowledged masterpiece, The Laws of Thought. The full title of the book was An Investigation of the Laws of Thought on which are founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities.

The preface of 30 November 1853 was addressed from his residence at 5 Grenville Place and the book was dedicated to

‘John Ryall, LL.D., Vice-President and Professor of Greek in Queen’s College Cork, in Testimony of Friendship and Esteem.’

In Desmond MacHale’s biography of George Boole, he provides Boole’s own description of this hugely important book as:

“an investigation of the fundamental laws of those operations of the mind by which reasoning is performed; to give expression to them in the symbolical language of a calculus and, upon this foundation, to establish the science of logic and construct its method; to make that method itself the basis of a general method for the application of the mathematical doctrine of probabilities; and finally to collect from the various elements of truth brought to view in the course of these inquiries some probable intimations concerning the nature and constitution of the human mind.”

This extremely influential book was a great success and is still in print today. The philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) described The Laws of Thought as:

“the work in which pure mathematics was discovered,’

while the mathematician Garrett Birkhoff (1911-1996) stated that:

‘The “Boolean Algebra” of classes, largely originated in this classic book, has had an ever-increasing influence on all branches of mathematics.”