Workshop on History of Logics, Types and Rewriting

Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh

Tuesday 5 December 2000

Birth of lambda-calculus and combinatory logic

Roger Hindley

This talk will be about the early days of lambda-calculus. But the rival system of function-abstraction, combinatory logic, was invented some years before lambda-calculus. In fact December 7 is the 80th anniversary of Moses Schoenfinkel's first talk on combinators at Goettingen. This talk will therefore deal with combinators as well as lambda. Both techniques achieved very satisfying successes in their early years before 1940, which were not surpassed until their application to computer science in the 1970's. (This talk will be based on an article being written with Felice Cardone for a forthcoming history of mathematical logic edited by D. van Dalen and J. Dawson.)