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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index B > George Boole Quotes

 George Boole (2 Nov 1815 - 8 Dec 1864) English mathematician and logician.

Science Quotes by George Boole (8 quotes)

A distinguished writer [Siméon Denis Poisson] has thus stated the fundamental definitions of the science:
“The probability of an event is the reason we have to believe that it has taken place, or that it will take place.”
“The measure of the probability of an event is the ratio of the number of cases favourable to that event, to the total number of cases favourable or contrary, and all equally possible” (equally like to happen).
From these definitions it follows that the word probability, in its mathematical acceptation, has reference to the state of our knowledge of the circumstances under which an event may happen or fail. With the degree of information which we possess concerning the circumstances of an event, the reason we have to think that it will occur, or, to use a single term, our expectation of it, will vary. Probability is expectation founded upon partial knowledge. A perfect acquaintance with all the circumstances affecting the occurrence of an event would change expectation into certainty, and leave neither room nor demand for a theory of probabilities.
— George Boole
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 243-244. The Poisson quote is footnoted as from Recherches sur la Probabilité des Jugemens.
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I presume that few who have paid any attention to the history of the Mathematical Analysis, will doubt that it has been developed in a certain order, or that that order has been, to a great extent, necessary—being determined, either by steps of logical deduction, or by the successive introduction of new ideas and conceptions, when the time for their evolution had arrived. And these are the causes that operate in perfect harmony. Each new scientific conception gives occasion to new applications of deductive reasoning; but those applications may be only possible through the methods and the processes which belong to an earlier stage.
— George Boole
Explaining his choice for the exposition in historical order of the topics in A Treatise on Differential Equations (1859), Preface, v-vi.
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It is not of the essence of mathematics to be conversant with the ideas of number and quantity. Whether as a general habit of mind it would be desirable to apply symbolic processes to moral argument, is another question.
— George Boole
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 12.
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No matter how correct a mathematical theorem may appear to be, one ought never to be satisfied that there was not something imperfect about it until it also gives the impression of being beautiful.
— George Boole
As quoted in Desmond MacHale. Comic Sections (1993), 107, without citation. Please contact the Webmaster if you know the primary source.
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Of the many forms of false culture, a premature converse with abstractions is perhaps the most likely to prove fatal to the growth of a masculine vigour of intellect.
— George Boole
In A Treatise on Differential Equations (1859), Preface, vi.
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Probability is expectation founded upon partial knowledge.
— George Boole
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 244. This is part of a longer quote, which begins, “A distinguished writer…”, on the George Boole Quotes page of this website.
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There was yet another disadvantage attaching to the whole of Newton’s physical inquiries, ... the want of an appropriate notation for expressing the conditions of a dynamical problem, and the general principles by which its solution must be obtained. By the labours of LaGrange, the motions of a disturbed planet are reduced with all their complication and variety to a purely mathematical question. It then ceases to be a physical problem; the disturbed and disturbing planet are alike vanished: the ideas of time and force are at an end; the very elements of the orbit have disappeared, or only exist as arbitrary characters in a mathematical formula
— George Boole
Address to the Mechanics Institute, 'An Address on the Genius and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton' (1835), excerpted in paper by Luis M. Laita, Luis de Ledesma, Eugenio Roanes-Lozano and Alberto Brunori, 'George Boole, a Forerunner of Symbolic Computation', collected in John A. Campbell and Eugenio Roanes-Lozano (eds.), Artificial Intelligence and Symbolic Computation: International Conference AISC 2000 (2001), 3.
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To unfold the secret laws and relations of those high faculties of thought by which all beyond the merely perceptive knowledge of the world and of ourselves is attained or matured, is a object which does not stand in need of commendation to a rational mind.
— George Boole
An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854), 3.
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Quotes by others about George Boole (4)

Like Molière’s M. Jourdain, who spoke prose all his life without knowing it, mathematicians have been reasoning for at least two millennia without being aware of all the principles underlying what they were doing. The real nature of the tools of their craft has become evident only within recent times A renaissance of logical studies in modern times begins with the publication in 1847 of George Boole’s The Mathematical Analysis of Logic.
Co-authored with James R. Newman in Gödel's Proof (1986, 2005), 30.
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Mathematics had never had more than a secondary interest for him [her husband, George Boole]; and even logic he cared for chiefly as a means of clearing the ground of doctrines imagined to be proved, by showing that the evidence on which they were supposed to give rest had no tendency to prove them. But he had been endeavoring to give a more active and positive help than this to the cause of what he deemed pure religion.
In Eleanor Meredith Cobham, Mary Everest Boole: Collected Works (1931), 40.
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Pure mathematics was discovered by Boole in a work which he called “The Laws of Thought” (1854).… His book was in fact concerned with formal logic, and this is the same thing as mathematics.
In 'Recent Work on the Principles of Mathematics', The International Monthly (Jul-Dec 1901), 4, 83. Relevant context appears in a footnote in William Bragg Ewald, From Kant to Hilbert: A Source Book in the Foundations of Mathematics (1996), Vol. 1, 442, which gives: “Russell’s essay was written for a popular audience, and (as he notes) for an editor who asked him to make the essay ‘as romantic as possible’. Russell’s considered appraisal of Boole was more sober. For instance, in Our Knowledge of the External World, Lecture II, he says of Boole: ‘But in him and his successors, before Peano and Frege, the only thing really achieved, apart from certain details, was the invention of a mathematical symbolism for deducing consequences from the premises which the newer methods shared with Aristotle.’”
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The modern development of mathematical logic dates from Boole’s Laws of Thought (1854). But in him and his successors, before Peano and Frege, the only thing really achieved, apart from certain details, was the invention of a mathematical symbolism for deducing consequences from the premises which the newer methods shared with Aristotle.
From a Lowell Lecture delivered in Boston (Apr 1914), 'Logic as the Essence of Philosophy". Published in Our Knowledge of the External World: As A Field For Scientific Method in Philosophy (1914), Lecture II, 40. Also quoted in William Bragg Ewald, From Kant to Hilbert: A Source Book in the Foundations of Mathematics (1996), Vol. 1, footnote, 442. In the Footnote, Ewalt contrasts a more “romantic” view of Boole written by Russell for a popular audience. Refer to the latter quote elsewhere on this Bertrand Russell webpage, which begins “Pure mathematics was discovered by Boole….”
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In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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