John Venn’s legacy: 100 years on

Dr Neil Gordon, Reader in Computer Science in Faculty of Science & Engineering at the University of Hull, reflects on John Venn’s legacy on campus and in classrooms around the world.

Have you ever wondered why the main administrative building on campus is the Venn building?

It is named after John Venn – probably our most famous local mathematicians and scientists. Whilst John Venn was born in the 19th century, his ideas and concepts are still around us today.

Venn was an accomplished mathematician and became interested in the developing area of logic and the algebra that underpins this, in particular the work of George Boole. Today, our modern world is dependent on the work of these mathematicians, as their logical framework underpins our modern computer systems.

john venn
John Venn

From his work on algebra, Venn explored ways to prove some of the ideas using visual diagrams, and he is most famous for these – the ubiquitous Venn diagrams that are so popular in explaining the ways that different sets of things can interrelate.

Here in Hull, if you want to see an artwork based on Venn’s diagrams, head to Hull city centre and to Drypool Bridge, which is decorated with intersecting circles that are inspired by these.

John Venn was born in 1834, and this year it is a century since his death on April 4th, 1923.

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