In memory of Dr. Erwin False

reading time 2 min

Today we celebrate the birthday of computer scientist Erwin False, computer science, innovator, and collaborator with George Boole in the invention of what we now call Boolean Algebra.

Dr Erwin was a coworker of George Boole who, at the time, was investigating new forms of algebra.

As Erwin explains in his autobiography, “George and I would meet for lunch at the company cafeteria a few times each week. George was investigating the mathematical existence of truth. Truth, truth, truth… that’s all he’d talk about.

One day he explained the notation system he had developed only had one symbol and how, while beautifully simple, was insufficient for the problems he was attempting to calculate. I suggested that maybe his notation should add a second symbol, one representing the absence of truth.

By the end of lunch we had worked out a system where truth was represented by “1” and the lack of truth was represented by the value “0”. Not thinking much of it, I went back to my office.

I was pleasantly surprised a week later when he showed a draft paper where he presented these ideas and had, in my honor, named this other symbol after me.”

Next time you’re writing code and use a boolean variable with a value of “false”, think of Erwin!

Tom Limoncelli

Tom Limoncelli

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