You are here

The Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic in the 1920s and 1930s in Poland

Roman Murawski
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
Science Networks Historical Studies 48
[Reviewed by
Charles Ashbacher
, on

There are times in the directed randomness of human history when there is a confluence of factors that create dramatic achievements in an area of human endeavor. The nation of Poland was created from segments of three empires that had dissolved after World War I ended. With great change came the opportunity for advancement. One area where Poland advanced was mathematical logic. Many major figures in the field worked in Poland during the interwar period. This book is a set of short biographies with comments about the work of the people that made the Polish mathematical community during this period a world-class force.

While the emphasis is on the approximately twenty-year interlude between the world wars, Murawski properly extends the coverage to significant leading events before the First World War and also discusses some of the most significant later consequences of the interwar work. There are few, if any, formulas; the descriptions are textual, mostly in language that non-logicians can understand, though there are some terms and phrases that will require some readers to back up and reread. Even though the creation and development of a nation reborn is a dramatic event with significant economic and political changes, very little about these events appear in the biographies.

Some extraordinary work in logic was done in the Polish universities after the horror that led to the rebirth of the nation. From this book you can learn about the people that accomplished that work. It is a solid work of history but includes little of the social and political context. 

Charles Ashbacher splits his time between consulting with industry in projects involving math and computers, teaching college classes and co-editing The Journal of Recreational Mathematics. In his spare time, he reads about these things and helps his daughter in her lawn care business.