The Journal of Symbolic Logic

Research Article

Alfred Tarski's work in model theory

Robert L. Vaught

Department of Mathematics, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720

We will consider Tarski's work in pure model theory and classical logic. His work in applied model theory—the model theory of various special theories—is discussed by Doner and van den Dries [1987], and McNulty [1986]. (However, the separation of “pure” and “applied” only becomes natural as the subjects mature; so we shall discuss applied model theory at least to some extent in Tarski's earlier work.)

Alfred Tarski (1901–1983) was awarded a Ph.D. in mathematics at Warsaw University in 1924. His teachers included the two leaders of the renowned Polish logic school, the logician-philosophers L. Leśniewski and J. Łukasiewicz. (Very soon Tarski was recognized as the third leader of the school.) Another teacher was the philosopher T. Kotarbiński, to whom Tarski dedicated his collected papers [56m]. Leśniewski was Tarski's thesis advisor; he transmitted to Tarski his interests in the metalanguage and in the theory of definition. Tarski's thesis ([23a], [24]) was about protothetic—the sentential calculus augmented by quantifiable variables ranging over truth functions. Its main result was that all the connectives are definable using only ↔ and ∀. By the same year, 1924, Tarski also had begun his prolific writings in set theory, and had discovered together with S. Banach, the leader of the Polish mathematicians, their famous “paradox” [24d] in measure theory. (For details see Lévy [1987].)

In 1927-29 Tarski held a seminar at Warsaw University on results he obtained in 1926-28. The seminar lay at the heart of what is now called model theory. The brief history of model theory up to that time had begun with the paper of L. Löwenheim [1915].

(Received April 22 1985)

(Revised July 22 1985)