# Des MacHale

Desmond "Des" MacHale (born 28 January 1946) is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork, Ireland.[1][2] He is a prolific author and speaker on various subjects, most notably George Boole, lateral thinking puzzles, and humour.[3][4]

Des MacHale
Des MacHale
Born28 January 1946 (age 73)
Castlebar, Ireland,
ResidenceCork, Ireland
NationalityIrish
Alma materUniversity of Keele
OccupationProfessor of Mathematics, author
Known forbiography of George Boole

## Biography

Des MacHale was born in Castlebar, County Mayo. He earned his BSc and MSc in mathematical science at University College Galway in 1967 and 1968, and completed his PhD at the University of Keele in 1972 under Hans Liebeck. Since then he has been at University College Cork, where his research has focussed on group and ring theory, especially Boolean rings.[1]

In 1985 MacHale published George Boole: His Life and Work, the first book length biography of Boole.[5] In 2014, a year ahead of Boole's bicentennial, this was reissued in revised and expanded form as The Life and Work of George Boole: A Prelude to the Digital Age. He is considered the world's leading expert on Boole and in 2018 published another book New Light on George Boole, co-authored with Yvonne Cohen.[6][7]

MacHale is a prolific author on various other subjects, including brainteasers and he has written some 30 books of jokes and discussions of humour.[8] His Comic Sections: The Book of Mathematical Jokes, Humour, Wit and Wisdom is a book which combines two of his passions. He has written over a dozen books of lateral thinking problems with author Paul Sloane; and many of these problems are featured on the Futility Closet website.[9] He has written several books about the 1952 American film, The Quiet Man. He speaks often–at schools, on radio, and television–on mathematics, humour, and puzzles.[10]

MacHale designed the logo of the Irish Mathematical Society.[11]

He is a longtime opponent of smoking, and for decades has played a leading role in the Irish Association of Non-Smokers. He appeared on RTÉ's The Late Late Show as early as the 1980s in an attempt to educate the public about the dangers of smoking.[5]

## Superbrain Competition

For a quarter century, starting in 1984, he ran the Superbrain Competition at University College Cork, also setting the questions and grading the papers. This annual competitive mathematics exam was and continues to be open to all UCC undergraduate and master's level students, and consists of 10 questions to be done in 3 hours. Students who have done well on it have sometimes ended up in academia themselves. A book of the questions (with full solutions) from 1984 to 2008 inclusive was published as The First Twenty-Five Years of the Superbrain by Diarmuid Early & Des MacHale (The United Kingdom Mathematics Trust, 2011). Sample questions, which require at most some basic knowledge of geometry, calculus and probability, include "Prove that cosine of 29 degrees is not a rational number", "What is the maximum and minimum number of Friday the thirteenths that can occur in any calendar year", and "Find with proof all solutions of the equation ${\displaystyle x!+y!=z!}$ , where x, y, and z are all positive integers".[12]

## Selected publications

• 2018 New Light on George Boole (with Yvonne Cohen), Cork University Press, ISBN 9781782052906
• 2015 Mathematical Lateral Thinking Puzzles co-author Paul Sloane (author) (Sterling Publishing), ISBN 978-1-4549-1167-8
• 2014 The First Twenty-Five Years of the Superbrain (with Diarmuid Early) United Kingdom Mathematics Trust, ISBN 1906001227
• 2014 The Life and Work of George Boole : a Prelude to the Digital Age, Cork University Press, ISBN 1782050051
• 2004 Picture The quiet man : an illustrated celebration, Appletree, ISBN 9780862819309
• 1995 Best Irish Humorous Quotations, Mercier, ISBN 1-85635-138-6
• 1993 Comic Sections: The Book of Mathematical Jokes, Humour, Wit and Wisdom, Boole Press, ISBN 1-85748-006-6
• 1989 The World's Best Maggie Thatcher Jokes, Angus & Robertson, ISBN 0-207-16224-7
• 1987 The Book of Irish Bull: Better than All the Udders, Mercier, ISBN 0-85342-822-0
• 1985 George Boole: His Life and Work, Boole Press, ISBN 0-906783-14-3

## Awards and honours

On George Boole Day, 2 November 2015, University College Cork awarded MacHale an honorary doctorate of literature in recognition of his contributions to scholarship on Boole.[13][14][15] On 15 October 2016 Maths Week Ireland presented MacHale with the inaugural "Raising Public Awareness of Maths" award.[7][16]

## References

1. ^ a b Celebrating George Boole's Bicentenary: Professor Desmond MacHale
2. ^ "How Dev was nearly lost to science". The Irish Times. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
3. ^
4. ^
5. ^ a b UCC to honour education stars: Desmond MacHale
6. ^ Des MacHale: The Best Friend George Boole Ever Had Annals of Irish Mathematics
7. ^ a b Des Machale receives Public Awareness of Maths Award 10th annual Maths Week Ireland
8. ^ Why did the Irishman break the rules? by Paul Vallely, The Independent Online, 29 September 1996
9. ^ Kohler, Chris. "Hands On: Sloane and MacHale, New DS Puzzler From Layton Developer". Wired. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
10. ^
11. ^ Mathematical Society News Logo design by Des MacHale
12. ^ Superbrain Winners University College Cork: Mathematical Sciences Scholarships & Awards
13. ^ On receiving the award MacHale said, "The world has finally come to realise the genius of George Boole internationally and the United Nations' declaration this year was a major achievement. Everyone in the world now has heard about George Boole."
14. ^ Dr Desmond MacHale, Degree of Doctor of Literature University College Cork, 2 November 2015
15. ^ Honorary Conferrings Speeches Archive: Dr Desmond MacHale, Degree of Doctor of Literature Address delivered by Professor John A. Murphy
16. ^ Irish mathematician Des MacHale honoured with Maths Week award by Colm Gorey, Silicon Republic, 16 October 2016.