More Pope-like than the Pope: modern mathematics movement in Czechoslovakia

Modern mathematics movement of the early 20th century found its way into the teaching of mathematics across the world in the early post-war period, with Georges Papy and André Lichnerowicz leading the way in Europe. In Czechoslovakia, this transformation of mathematics education is known as “set-theoretical approach”. Indeed set theory is at the core of Bourbakist transformation of the mathematical knowledge, as exemplified by their masterpiece Élements de Mathématique, which became mathematicians’ manifesto. In the educational setting, the adjectives “new” and “modern” were found more appropriate, but not so in Czechoslovakia.

Dirk de Bock’s recent book on the topic (Modern Mathematics: An International Movement?, Springer 2023) covers a lot of Modern Math, but Czechoslovakia is missing, and here we are. Czechoslovakia is at the heart of Europe, perhaps the heart of Europe. Hence we connect to other countries: Poland, Hungary, Soviet Union, but also Belgium, France, Sweden (marginally), the Netherlands, and Yugoslavia as a very special case.

This seminar reports on a joint project of Helena Durnová, Petra Bušková (Masaryk University), Danny J. Beckers (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), and Snezana Lawrence (Middlesex University).