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Pearls from a Lost City: The Lvov School of Mathematics
Roman Duda, University of Wrocław, Poland
Translated by Daniel Davies

History of Mathematics
2014; 231 pp; hardcover
Volume: 40
ISBN-10: 1-4704-1076-1
ISBN-13: 978-1-4704-1076-6
List Price: US$39
Member Price: US$31.20
Order Code: HMATH/40
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See also:

Stefan Banach: Remarkable Life, Brilliant Mathematics - Emilia Jakimowicz and Adam Miranowicz

The fame of the Polish school at Lvov rests with the diverse and fundamental contributions of Polish mathematicians working there during the interwar years. In particular, despite material hardship and without a notable mathematical tradition, the school made major contributions to what is now called functional analysis. The results and names of Banach, Kac, Kuratowski, Mazur, Nikodym, Orlicz, Schauder, Sierpiński, Steinhaus, and Ulam, among others, now appear in all the standard textbooks.

The vibrant joie de vivre and singular ambience of Lvov's once scintillating social scene are evocatively recaptured in personal recollections. The heyday of the famous Scottish Café--unquestionably the most mathematically productive cafeteria of all time--and its precious Scottish Book of highly influential problems are described in detail, revealing the special synergy of scholarship and camaraderie that permanently elevated Polish mathematics from utter obscurity to global prominence.

This chronicle of the Lvov school--its legacy and the tumultuous historical events which defined its lifespan--will appeal equally to mathematicians, historians, or general readers seeking a cultural and institutional overview of key aspects of twentieth-century Polish mathematics not described anywhere else in the extant English-language literature.


Undergraduate, graduate, and research mathematicians interested in the history of mathematics and the Polish history of sciences.


"Many journal articles have been devoted to various aspects of mathematics in Lwów or to biographies of Lwów mathematicians, but Duda's book is the first comprehensive exposition. It is a must-read for everyone interested in the history of functional analysis or of mathematics in Poland, where the original Polish edition from 2007 ... has been highly successful. There is good reason to assume that the English version will be likewise successful."

-- Dirk Werner, ZMATH

"This book gives the history of Lvov as a mathematical center, from pre-WWI to Soviet and Ukrainian times, looking especially at the interwar golden age and the special favorable environment for mathematical scholarship. The author also describes the ways in which the Soviets and Germans destroyed this rich environment. The book includes a list, with biographical sketches, of mathematicians associated with Lvov, and a Lvov biography. It was a special time and place for mathematics, disrupted by war and politics and oppression and murder, and one wonders what more could have been achieved in a peaceful environment."

-- CHOICE Reviews

"The book under review is well and carefully written. The translation from Polish into English is polished and lively. ... I highly recommend the book for all university libraries, and I recommend it to those interested in the history of mathematics. The general mathematical reader will find it an entertaining and informative story about mathematicians and a truly extraordinary mathematical community."

-- Henry Heatherly, MAA Reviews

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