George Boole inspired Sherlock Holmes baddie Moriarty, professor claims

19 Aug 2015

Moriarty, played by Andrew Scott, confronts Sherlock Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, in the hit BBC series Sherlock

The character of Professor James Moriarty, the criminal mastermind and arch-enemy of Sherlock Holmes in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle series of stories, may have been inspired by genius mathematician George Boole, it has been claimed.

University College Cork is this year celebrating the bicentenary of mathematician and philosopher George Boole, whose findings underpin the information age with the creation of the algebraic form of logic.

As part of the celebrations, a very non-technical talk about Boole will be held on 26 August at UCC’s Aula Maxima at 8pm where Boole’s biographer, Emeritus Professor Des MacHale, will discuss the link between Boole and Moriarty, whom Holmes describes as the “Napoleon of crime”.

Boole clue connects Cork, H.G. Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The story is a long and convoluted one and H. G. Wells, a father of science fiction, is a vital link connecting Doyle and Mary Everest Boole, George Boole’s wife. Recent evidence is presented on several Cork people with the surname Moriarty.

Coincidentally, in the hit BBC television adaptation of Sherlock Holmes’ tales — Sherlock — Moriarty is played by an Irish man, actor Andrew Scott.

MacHale is delivering this lecture as part of the George Boole Mathematical Sciences (GBMS) Conference, which is this week welcoming Mathematics experts from across the globe.

‘If the Boole-Moriarty link can be established, then every literate person on the planet will know about George Boole too’

“Every computer scientist, mathematician, electrical engineer, and logician on the planet already knows about George Boole,” commented MacHale.

“If the Boole-Moriarty link can be established, then every literate person on the planet will know about George Boole too.”

MacHale is a key contributor to The Genius of George Boole, a new documentary commissioned by UCC, to be screened on RTÉ One at 10.35pm on 1 September.

Narrated by Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons and produced by the multi-award-winning Oxford Film and Television, the film assembles academics and industry leaders from across the globe to explore the life and importance of one of the world’s greatest unsung heroes.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years