Skip to content ↓

Professor George Boolos Dead at 55

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.-George S. Boolos, Professor of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and President of the Association for Symbolic Logic, died Monday, May 27, at his home in Cambridge at the age of 55, surrounded by his family, friends, colleagues and devoted students. The cause of death was cancer of the pancreas.

A prominent logician and philosopher, Professor Boolos was internationally known as one of the originators of provability logic. He was also a leading authority on the work of the 19th century German mathematician and philosopher Gottlob Frege, widely regarded as the founder of modern logic. Professor Boolos's work contributed to an important and ongoing reevaluation of the significance of Frege's philosophical and technical achievements, especially his attempt to show that the basic laws of arithmetic are themselves principles of logic.

He was not only an innovator, but also an outstandingly effective teacher, both in the classroom and through the remarkable clarity and wit of his expositions, which included a precise and accurate account of Kurt Godel's famous Incompleteness Theorem, expressed entirely in words of one syllable.

Professor Boolos had been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for 1996 to complete a book on Frege, and he had been recently appointed Rockefeller Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He was the author of The Logic of Provability and, with Richard C. Jeffrey, Computability and Logic, one of the most widely used textbooks in intermediate logic. He was also an expert on puzzles of all kinds, ranging from crossword puzzles to Rubik's Cube. In 1993, he qualified for the London Regional Final of the London Times crossword puzzle competition, where his score was one of the highest ever recorded by an American.

Born in New York City, Professor Boolos graduated from Princeton in 1961 with a Bachelor's degree in mathematics. As a Fulbright Scholar, he attended Oxford where he earned a B.Phil (1963). He also holds the first PhD in philosophy ever given at MIT (1966). He taught at Columbia University for three years before returning to MIT in 1969.

He is survived by his mother, Mrs. Stephen Boolos of New York City; his wife, the philosopher Sally Sedgwick of Dartmouth College; and a son by a previous marriage, Peter D. Boolos.

Contributions, made out to MIT and earmarked for the George Boolos Memorial Scholarship Fund, can be sent to the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT, Cambridge, Mass., 02139.

A memorial service will be held at MIT at a date to be announced.

Related Topics

More MIT News