The Scottish Café (Polish: Kawiarnia Szkocka) was the café in Lwów (now Lviv) where, in the 1930s and 1940s, mathematicians from the Lwów School collaboratively discussed research problems, particularly in functional analysis and topology.
Stanislaw Ulam recounts that the tables of the café had marble tops, so they could write in pencil, directly on the table, during their discussions. To keep the results from being lost, and after becoming annoyed with their writing directly on the table tops, Stefan Banach's wife provided the mathematicians with a large notebook, which was used for writing the problems and answers and eventually became known as the Scottish Book. The book—a collection of solved, unsolved, and even probably unsolvable problems—could be borrowed by any of the guests of the café. Solving any of the problems was rewarded with prizes, with the most difficult and challenging problems having expensive prizes (during the Great Depression and on the eve of World War II), such as a bottle of fine brandy.
For problem 153, which was later recognized as being closely related to Stefan Banach's "basis problem", Stanisław Mazur offered the prize of a live goose. This problem was solved only in 1972 by Per Enflo, who was presented with the live goose in a ceremony that was broadcast throughout Poland.
The café building now houses the Universal Bank at the street address of 27 Taras Shevchenko Prospekt.
The following mathematicians were associated with the Lwów School of Mathematics or contributed to The Scottish Book:
- Karol Borsuk
- Marek Kac
- Stefan Kaczmarz
- Bronisław Knaster
- Kazimierz Kuratowski
- Stanisław Saks
- Juliusz Schauder
- Hugo Steinhaus
- Mauldin, ed.
- Mauldin, ed.; Kaluza.
- Kałuża, Roman (1996). Ann Kostant and Wojbor Woyczyński, ed. Through a reporter's eyes: The life of Stefan Banach. Birkhäuser. ISBN 0-8176-3772-9. MR 1392949.
- R. Daniel Mauldin, ed. (1981). The Scottish Book: Mathematics from the Scottish Café (Including selected papers presented at the Scottish Book Conference held at North Texas State University, Denton, Tex., May 1979). Boston, Mass.: Birkhäuser. pp. xiii+268 pp. (2 plates). ISBN 3-7643-3045-7. MR 666400.
- Scottish book
- Scottish book Web page at Home Page of Stefan Banach at University of Gdańsk website
- Kawiarnia Szkocka at the MacTutor archive
- Sheldon Axler's review of "The Life of Stefan Banach"
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