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The Death of George Boole (1815-1864)
9/1/2015

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The Death of George Boole (1815-1864)
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
04:00:24 GMT

Philosophy

Lately, because of my newfound obsession with trying to design graph databases, I've been reading about formal logic.

And I found out that the great George Boole (1815-1864), of Boolean logic fame, died not only a tragic but also ironic death.

According to this page from GeorgeBoole.com, Boole got sick after walking about 3 miles in pouring rain and then giving a lecture in wet clothes.

And, according to Wikipedia, his wife had the peculiar homeopathic belief that "remedies should resemble their cause".

(Addition, 4:08 AM EDT: That belief is more clearly described in Wikipedia's Homeopathy article:

"Homeopathy" [...] "is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann based on his doctrine of like cures like (similia similibus curentur), a claim that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people."

End of addition.)

So, she put him to bed, and then drenched him with more water. After that, he died of pneumonia.


It would be a tragic form of death for anyone - but, it's particularly ironic that one of the leading figures of the field of logic died probably at least partly (though perhaps not entirely) because of someone's (or perhaps multiple people's) shocking illogic.

Maybe it's an example of why it's a bad idea to believe that any particular group of people (such as women) doesn't deserve to be educated.

Perhaps Boole's wife wouldn't have fallen prey to homeopathic fallacies if she had been better-educated, if her society had a more widespread belief that women should be educated.

And then maybe George Boole would have lived many more years, and would have been able to contribute even more than he already did to the field of logic, etc.

(Addition, 12:23 AM EDT: On further reading, I just found out his wife Mary Boole was actually somewhat educated, and even had an interest in and influence upon the field of education. But, evidently none of that rescued her from an excessive and dangerous belief in homeopathy.)


Not that those are the only possible factors to blame. Perhaps George Boole should have been sensible enough to always carry an umbrella around with him when he went on long walks. According to Wikipedia, umbrellas had already been invented long before the 1860's.

But, maybe the connection between getting sick and having your immune system weakened by exposure to cold temperatures hadn't been discovered (or widely acknowledged) yet? I don't know.

Also, I wonder why George Boole let his wife do such a stupid thing to him? Maybe he was too sick to think straight enough about it to refuse? Or did she do it without asking?

In any case, whatever the causes, it's really sad that that happened. As well as also quite sad that illogic in its multifarious forms remains widespread, and dangerous enough to literally result in people's deaths.

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