Des MacHale

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Des MacHale
Born (1946-01-28) 28 January 1946 (age 78)
Alma materUniversity of Keele
Occupation(s)Professor of Mathematics, author
Known forBiography of George Boole

Desmond MacHale (born 28 January 1946) is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork, Ireland.[1][2] He is an author and speaker on several subjects, including George Boole, lateral thinking puzzles, and humour. He has published over 80 books, some of which have been translated into languages including Danish, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, German, Korean, and Japanese.[3][4]


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 has also authored books on other subjects, including brainteasers and he has written more than 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 interests. 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 has spoken at schools, on radio, and television on the subjects of 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 role within 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]

His son is the actor Dominic MacHale, known for The Young Offenders.[12][13]

Superbrain competition[edit]

From 1984 to 2007, MacHale ran the Superbrain Competition at University College Cork, including setting the questions and grading the papers.[14] This annual competitive mathematics exam, now run by a committee of mathematics faculty, is open to UCC undergraduate and master's level students, and consists of 10 questions to be done in 3 hours.[citation needed] A book of the questions (with solutions) from 1984 to 2008 was published in 2011 as The First Twenty-Five Years of the Superbrain by Diarmuid Early & Des MacHale.[15]

Selected books[edit]

Books by Des MacHale include:[16]

  • 2023 Sip & Solve Two-Minute Brainteasers (with Paul Sloane), Puzzlewright, ISBN 9781454947974
  • 2022 Comic Sections Plus, Logic Press, ISBN 9781471761478
  • 2020 The Poetry of George Boole, Logic Press, ISBN 9781716520273
  • 2020 Number and Letter Puzzles, Logic Press, ISBN 9780244231002
  • 2018 New Light on George Boole (with Yvonne Cohen), Cork University Press, ISBN 9781782052906
  • 2016 Lateral Thinking Puzzles in Mathematics, (with Paul Sloane), Puzzlewright, ISBN 9781454911678
  • 2015 Mathematical Lateral Thinking Puzzles (with Paul Sloane), 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 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
  • 2006 Puzzleology: Tough Puzzles for Kids, Mercier Press, ISBN 9781856355087
  • 2004 Picture The quiet man : an illustrated celebration, Appletree, ISBN 9780862819309
  • 2002 Sit & Solve - Lateral Thinking Puzzles (with Paul Sloane), Puzzlewright, ISBN 9780806957050
  • 1995 Best Irish Humorous Quotations, Mercier Press, 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 Press, ISBN 0-85342-822-0
  • 1985 George Boole: His Life and Work, Boole Press, ISBN 0-906783-14-3

Awards and honours[edit]

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.[17][18]

On 15 October 2016 Maths Week Ireland presented MacHale with the inaugural "Raising Public Awareness of Maths" award.[7][19]


  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. ^ "Amazon, Books by Des MacHale".
  4. ^ "Mercier Press, Authors, Des MacHale".
  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. ^ "Youtube: Des MacHale on humour and puzzles". Archived from the original on 21 December 2021.
  11. ^ Mathematical Society News Logo design by Des MacHale
  12. ^ "On The Buses: Public transport gets CCCahoots treatment". Echo Live. 16 January 2019. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  13. ^ Fitzpatrick, Pat (22 October 2019). "Made in Munster: 'I was down to a euro' - Watch The Young Offenders actors tell of struggle to make it in acting". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  14. ^ Superbrain Winners University College Cork: Mathematical Sciences Scholarships & Awards
  15. ^ Leversha, Gerry (March 2011). "Superbrain: the first twenty-five years, by Diarmuid Early and MacHale. Des Pp. 230. £13.00. 2009. ISBN: 978-1906338015 (HighPerception)". The Mathematical Gazette. 95 (532): 171–172. doi:10.1017/S0025557200007543. ISSN 0025-5572. S2CID 183131270.
  16. ^ Books by Des MacHale Logic Press
  17. ^ 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."
  18. ^ Honorary Conferrings Speeches Archive: Dr Desmond MacHale, Degree of Doctor of Literature Address delivered by Professor John A. Murphy
  19. ^ Irish mathematician Des MacHale honoured with Maths Week award by Colm Gorey, Silicon Republic, 16 October 2016.

External links[edit]