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Alfred Tarski's work in set theory

  • Azriel Levy (a1)


Alfred Tarski started contributing to set theory at a time when the Zermelo-Fraenkel axiom system was not yet fully formulated and as simple a concept as that of the inaccessible cardinal was not yet fully defined. At the end of Tarski's career the basic concepts of the three major areas and tools of modern axiomatic set theory, namely constructibility, large cardinals and forcing, were already clearly defined and were in the midst of a rapid successful development. The role of Tarski in this development was somewhat similar to the role of Moses showing his people the way to the Promised Land and leading them along the way, while the actual entry of the Promised Land was done mostly by the next generation. The theory of large cardinals was started mostly by Tarski, and developed mostly by his school. The mathematical logicians of Tarski's school contributed much to the development of forcing, after its discovery by Paul Cohen, and to a lesser extent also to the development of the theory of constructibility, discovered by Kurt Gödel. As in other areas of logic and mathematics Tarski's contribution to set theory cannot be measured by his own results only; Tarski was a source of energy and inspiration to his pupils and collaborators, of which I was fortunate to be one, always confronting them with new problems and pushing them to gain new ground.

Tarski's interest in set theory was probably aroused by the general emphasis on set theory in Poland after the First World War, and by the influence of Wactaw Sierpinski, who was one of Tarski's teachers at the University of Warsaw. The very first paper published by Tarski, [21], was a paper in set theory.



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All references are to be found in the Bibliography of Alfred Tarski, this Journal, vol. 51 (1986), pp. 913941.


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