Monday, September 12, 2022

The Poetry of Mathematician George Boole

      One of the interesting poetry collections on my shelves is The Poetry of George Boole by Desmond MacHale (Logic Press, Ireland, 2020 -- and published in the USA for Logic Press by  This is not simply a poetry collection -- but poetry with commentary.  MacHale includes more than seventy surviving poems by the Irish mathematician Boole (1815-1864) -- and he also discusses Boole's views of the connections between Science and the Arts with an initial chapter is entitled "Poetry and Mathematics."  

     It is quite appropriate that Boole should relate poetry to mathematics since he was, primarily, a mathematician; his Boolean algebra is basic to the design of digital computer circuits)   Boole's own poetry, however, found most of its inspiration outside of math.  Here is his Sonnet 20 (Sonnet to the Number Three); written in May 1846 and suggesting that belief in the religious Trinity is connected with our interpretation of space in three dimensions.

       When the great Maker, on Creation bent,
       Thee from they brethren chose, and framed by thee
       The world to Sense reveal'd, yet left it free,
       To those whose intellectual gaze intent
       Behind the veil phenomenal is sent
       Space diverse, systems manifold to see,
       Reveal'd by thought alone; was it that we,
       In whose mysterious spirits thus are blent
       Finite of Sense and Infinite of thought,
       Should feel how vast, how little is our store;
       As yon excelling arch with orbs deep fraught
       To the light wave that dies along the shore,
       Till from our weakness and our strength may rise
       One worship unto Him the only wise?

This link leads to a preview of several initial pages of The Poetry of George Boole.

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