Legend has it that he picked up the illness after walking from Blackrock to UCC to deliver a lecture and getting drenched in rain along the way. The story goes that, in a misguided belief that what causes an illness can also cure it, Boole lay in his sick-bed while his wife Mary threw buckets of cold water over him.
Despite living in Blackrock for the later part of his life, indeed it is here that he is buried, he spent his early years in Cork living as a bachelor at number five, Grenville Place.
It is at Grenville place, near the Mercy Hospital that Boole wrote his most famous work – Laws of Thought. Boole invented Boolean Algebra. A form of mathematics which directly led to the development of computers and the internet.
Now number five lies in ruins after the internal structure of the building collapsed in October 2010. The beautiful Lee-fronting building was ‘secured’ by agents working on behalf of Cork City Council shortly afterward. It now stands as a hollow tribute to local authority neglect and a national disregard for scientific and historical heritage.
In the Spring of 2011, Cork City Manager Tim Lucey said that the council would be spending €135,000 to try and save the building and that the cost would be recouped from the owner. He also said that “subject to the consent of the owner” the council would “establish the level of interest in its future use/development, from the range of bodies which have expressed views to the Council on its historic importance”
And that’s as far as the story goes. The building lies open to the elements with an internal scaffolding in place to try to prevent further collapse.
I suppose we should be thankful that any of the building has survived. The quay wall adjacent to the house was breached in the disastrous floods of 2009 (which Boole recognised could be a problem in that area) and has yet to be restored. What hope is there for the restoration of an historic building if the City cannot muster the wherewithal to restore its very fabric?
As a nation, we must value and take pride in our scientific success stories. It is through education and innovation that we can restore much of this countries tarnished image and pride. Let us not allow our rich scientific and educational heritage to collapse.