Person: Curry, Haskell Brooks
Haskell Curry worked in mathematical logic with particular interest in the theory of formal systems and processes.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Haskell did not show particular interest in mathematics when at high school and when he graduated in 1916 he fully intended to study medicine.
- Curry wanted to serve his country, and decided that he would be more likely to see action if he had a mathematics training rather than if he continued the pre-medical course he was on.
- The war, however, ended shortly after this (in November) and on 9 December 1918 Curry left the army.
- Curry now decided that he would look for a career in electrical engineering and he took a job with the General Electric Company which allowed him to study electrical engineering part-time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Curry graduated with a Master's Degree in physics from Harvard in 1924 but by now he realised that the subject for him was not physics but it was mathematics.
- Throughout this period of changing topics Curry had other things to keep him busy.
- Curry acted as treasurer to the Expression Company from the time it was formed, but it was sold in 1928.
- If one imagines that from 1924 when Curry embarked on his doctorate in mathematics at Harvard he at last found the topic for him, then one would be mistaken.
- Veblen assured Curry that this was a positive, rather than negative, discovery and, after Alexander had informed him that Schönfinkel was in a mental hospital and therefore not continuing his line of research, Curry sought advice on who would be the best Ph.D. supervisor.
- In order to improve his chances of financial support, Curry wrote up his ideas on combinators for publication and this became his first paper An analysis of logical substitution which appeared in the American Journal of Mathematics in 1929.
- Returning to the United States, Curry was appointed to State College, Pennsylvania (now Pennsylvania State University) in September 1929.
- The Great Depression began in 1929 so it was fortunate that Curry obtained his position when he did.
- The Association for Symbolic Logic was founded in 1936 with Curry as one of the founders.
- After giving a very clear exposition of the fundamentals of combinatory logic, showing its close relationship to the λ-calculus developed by Church, Curry went on to describe his recent work.
- As the 1940s began, Curry had reached the position of being one of the leading mathematical logicians in the world.
- During the 1940s Curry also renewed his association with the School of Expression in Boston, which by this time had been renamed Curry College.
- Curry began working on Combinatory Logic in 1950 when he was awarded a Fulbright Grant that enabled him to work with Robert Feys at Louvain.
- They continued collaborating on the book after Curry returned to the United States and completed the text in 1956.
- In Foundations of Mathematical Logic Curry develops the topic from an algebraic basis using Gentzen's methods.
- Haskell has always done more for colleagues and students than be a source of important ideas.
- Also well known wherever the Currys have lived has been the hospitality they have shown.
Born 12 September 1900, Millis, Massachusetts, USA. Died 1 September 1982, State College, Pennsylvania , USA.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive