Polish Mathematical Society

The Polish Mathematical Society

The Polish Mathematical Society began its existence in Krakow as the Mathematical Society in 1917. Its Polish name is Polskie Towarzystwo Matematyczne.

Steinhaus lived in Krakow during 1916 and he relates in [1] how, despite the war, it was safe to walk in Krakow:-

During one such walk I overheard the words "Lebesgue measure". I approached the park bench and introduced myself to the two young apprentices of mathematics. They told me they had another companion by the name of Witold Wilkosz, whom they extravagantly praised. The youngsters were Stefan Banach and Otto Nikodym. From then on we would meet on a regular basis, and ... we decided to establish a mathematical society.

The informal Mathematical Society, established in 1917, became officially constituted after the end of World War I. At 5 p.m. on 2 April 1919 a meeting was held in the Philosophy Seminar at 12 St Anne Street, Krakow, at which the Mathematical Society was constituted. Among the sixteen mathematicians present were Stefan Banach, Otto Nikodym, Stanislaw Zaremba, and Kazimierz Zorawski. The session was introduced by Zorawski who said [7]:-

... that an all-Polish Mathematical Society is in the making in Warsaw, and he proposed a motion to initiate a 'Mathematical Society in Krakow' which might later become associated with the Warsaw society. The motion was passed unanimously and Dr S Zaremba was elected to preside over the Constituting Session.

The session went on to set out the aims of the Society, namely to stimulate the development of pure and applied mathematics. A proposal that another aim should be to popularise mathematics was defeated. Rules governing the officers of the Society and their terms of office were drawn up. Fees were set and the frequency of meetings was agreed. Zaremba was unanimously elected as President of the new Society.

The Warsaw mathematicians, let by Dickstein, had already set up the Warsaw Mathematical Study as part of the Warsaw Scientific Society. Dickstein had also founded the publication of several mathematical journals. However, after some months of deliberation, five leading Warsaw mathematicians joined the Mathematical Society in Krakow on 19 September 1919. These were Dickstein, Sierpinski, Janiszewski, Mazurkiewicz, and Zakrocki. It was announced at that meeting of the Krakow Society that an Extraordinary Meeting would be held on 29 September [7]:-

Mathematicians from different parts of Poland have been invited to participate in it. The aim of the meeting is to organise a reporting bureau for collecting and spreading abroad information about the scientific movement in Poland, and consider a possible reorganisation of the Society ... to enlarge the sphere of activities of the Society to the entire country ...

Dickstein attended the meeting on 29 September 1919 in Krakow, and a letter was presented to the meeting from mathematicians in Lvov. They reported that they had set up a Mathematical Society there two years earlier but it had not flourished and they now wished to join with the Krakow Society. Dickstein addressed the meeting and informed the Society of the journals and other activity which had been taking place under his initiative in Warsaw with the Warsaw Scientific Society.

Zaremba proposed to another Extraordinary Meeting, this time held on 21 April 1920, that the Society should change its name to 'The Polish Mathematical Society'. This was passed and a commission set up to draw up new statutes for a country wide Mathematical Society. These new statutes were approved at a further Extraordinary Meeting held on 22 December 1920.

For many years Zaremba served the Society as editor of the Annals of the Polish Mathematical Society. Other leading mathematicians served the Society in the period between the two wars including Sierpinski who was elected president of the Polish Mathematical Society in 1928 and Mazurkiewicz who was president in 1933-35. In 1939, just before the start of World War II, Banach was elected as President of the Society.

In 1936 a committee had been set up by the Polish Academy of Learning to look at the way forward for Polish science. A mathematics committee was formed jointly with the Polish Mathematical Society, and Kuratowski became its secretary. They prepared a report "On the present state and needs of mathematics in Poland", completed in 1937, which formulated future requirements. Unfortunately the report had no effect due to the outbreak of World War II. The Polish Mathematical Society was unable to operate during the war but was reborn in 1945.

At its first meeting following the end of the war in October 1945 the Polish Mathematical Society passed a resolution:-

... to welcome delegates from the Society's new Section in Wroclaw. The meeting considers the vigorous start of the Wroclaw mathematical centre's activities, and the presence of its delegates not only as a manifestation of the return of the Western Territories to Poland, but also as a proof of the rebirth of Polish culture in those territories.

In the post war period Kuratowski took on the role of leader in rebuilding Polish mathematics and, through the Polish Mathematical Society, of which he was president for eight years immediately following the war, he set about arguing for the implementation of the recommendations of their 1937 report. Through the efforts of the Society Poland recovered her position in the world of mathematics.


List of References (11 books/articles)

Other Web sites
  1. Society Web-site
  2. European Mathematical Society Newsletter

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JOC/EFR August 2004 School of Mathematics and Statistics
University of St Andrews, Scotland
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