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American Postulate Theorists and Alfred Tarski

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This article outlines the work of a group of US mathematicians called the American Postulate Theorists and their influence on Tarski's work in the 1930s that was to be foundational for model theory. The American Postulate Theorists were influenced by the European foundational work of the period around 1900, such as that of Peano and Hilbert. In the period roughly from 1900 - 1940, they developed an indigenous American approach to foundational investigations. This made use of interpretations of precisely formulated axiomatic theories to prove such metatheoretic properties as independence, consistency, categoricity and, in some cases, completeness of axiom sets. This approach to foundations was in many respects similar to that later taken by Tarski, who frequently cites the work of American Postulate Theorists. Their work served as paradigm examples of the theories and concepts investigated in model theory. The article also examines the possibility of a more specific impetus to Tarski's model theoretic investigation, arising from his having studied in 1927 - 1929 a paper by C. H. Langford proving completeness for various axiom sets for linear orders. This used the method of elimination of quantifiers. The article concludes with an examination of one example of Langford's methods to indicate how their correct formulation seems to call for model-theoretic concepts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2003

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