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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; approx. 216 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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Not yet published.
Expected publication date is May 26, 2014.
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.

Table of Contents

  • The University and the Polytechnic in Lvov
  • Polish mathematics at the turn of the twentieth century
  • Sierpiński's stay at the University of Lvov (1908-1914)
  • The University in Warsaw and Janiszewski's program (1915-1920)
  • World mathematics (active fields in Poland) around 1920
The golden age: Individuals and community
  • The mathematical community in Lvov after World War I
  • Mathematical studies and students
  • Journals, monographs, and congresses
  • The popularization of mathematics
  • Social life (the Scottish Café, the Scottish Book)
  • The Polish Mathematical Society
  • Collaboration with other centers
  • In the eyes of others
The golden age: Achievements
  • Stefan Banach's doctoral thesis and priority claims
  • Probability theory
  • Measure theory
  • Game theory: A revelation without follow-up
  • Operator theory in the 1920s
  • Methodological audacity
  • Banach's monograph: Polishing the pearls
  • Operator theory in the 1930s: The dazzle of pearls
  • New perspectives for which time did not allow
  • On the periphery
  • Ukrainization the Soviet way (1939-1941)
  • The German occupation (1941-1944)
  • The expulsion of Poles (1945-1946)
Historical significance
  • Chronological overview
  • Chronology of events as perceived elsewhere
  • Influence on mathematics of the Lvov school
  • A tentative summary
  • Mathematics in Lvov after 1945
List of Lvov mathematicians
  • Mathematicians associated with Lvov
  • Bibliographies
  • List of illustrations
  • Index of names
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