Prominent Poles

Jan Lukasiewicz, philosopher and logician PHOTO

Photo of Jan Lukasiewicz, philosopher

Born:  December 21, 1878, Lemberg, Austrian partition of Poland (Lwow, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth before the partition and after WWI. Presently Lviv, Ukraine)

Died:  February 13, 1956, Dublin, Ireland.

Early days. Lukasiewicz 's father, Lukasz Lukasiewicz, was a captain in the Austrian army. Perhaps before proceeding we should explain why the father in this Polish speaking family, living in Lwow which is now in the Ukraine, should be in the Austrian army. Galicia, in which Lwow was situated, was attached to Austria in the 1772 partition of Poland. However, by the time Lukasiewicz was born in Lwow, Austria had named the region the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and given it a large degree of administrative autonomy. Jan's mother, Leopoldine Holtzer, was the daughter of an Austrian civil servant.
Higher education. Lukasiewicz was interested in mathematics at school and he entered the University of Lwow where he studied mathematics and philosophy. Following his undergraduate studies, he continued to work for his doctorate under the guidance of professor Kazimierz Twardowski which was awarded to him in 1902 with the highest distinction.
Professorship in Lwow. In 1906 he became first a lecturer and then Professor in Logics and Philosophy at the University of Lwow.
Professorship in Warsaw.In 1915 he moved to Warsaw and obtained a Philosophy chair at the University of Warsaw.
Inventing Polish notation.In the 1920's, Jan Lukasiewicz developed a formal logic system that allowed mathematical expressions to be specified without parentheses by placing the operators before (prefix notation or Polish notation) or after (postfix notation) the operands. The notation for the expression 3(4 +5) could be written as x 3 + 4 5 This contrasts with the traditional algebraic methodology for performing mathematical operations, the Order of Operations. (The device for remembering the Order of Operations is "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally" - parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, subtraction). In the expression 3(4+5), you would work inside the parentheses first to add four plus five and then multiply the result by three. In the early days of the computer, the end-user had to write down the results of their intermediate steps when using the algebraic Order of Operations. Not only did this slow things down, but it provided an opportunity for the end-user to make errors and sometimes defeated the purpose of using a calculating machine.
Hewlett-Packard:reverse Polish notation. In the 1960's, engineers at Hewlett-Packard decided that it would be easier for end-users to learn Jan Lukasiewicz' logic system than to try and use the Order of Operations on a calculator. They modified Jan Lukasiewicz's system for a calculator keyboard by placing the instructions (operators) after the data. In homage to Jan Lukasiewicz' Polish logic system, the engineers at Hewlett-Packard called their modification reverse Polish notation (RPN). The notation for the expression 3(4+5) would now be expressed as 4 5 + 3 x or it could be further simplified to 3 4 5 + x Reverse Polish notation provided a straightforward solution for calculator or computer software mathematics because it treats the instructions (operators) and the data (operands) as "objects" and processes them in a last-in, first-out (LIFO) basis. This is called a "stack method." (Think of a stack of plates. The last plate you put on the stack will be the first plate taken off the stack.) Modern calculators with memory functions are sophisticated enough to accommodate the use of the traditional algebraic Order of Operations, but users of RPN calculators like the logic's simplicity and continue to make it profitable for Hewlett-Packard to manufacture RPN calculators.
Departure to Ireland.In 1946, in protest to the Soviet occupation of Poland Lukasiewicz moved to Dublin, Ireland where he died in 1956.

This information on Lukasiewicz i was abbreviated and copied from the article that appeared in:
St.Andrews Univ.
GAP is Copyright (C) 1986--1997 by Lehrstuhl D fuer Mathematik, RWTH Aachen, Aachen. Germany and Copyright (C) 1997-2001 by School of Mathematical and Computational Sciences, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, UK GAP can be copied and distributed freely for any non-commercial purpose.
and from an article in
See also:
Polish Philosophy

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