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History of Lambda-Calculus and Combinatory Logic

History of Lambda-Calculus and Combinatory Logic

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History of Lambda-calculus andCombinatory Logic
Felice Cardone
J. Roger Hindley
2006,fromSwansea University Mathematics Department Research ReportNo. MRRS-05-06.
Contents
1 Introduction 12 Pre-history 23
1920
s
: Birth of Combinatory Logic 34
1930
s
: Birth of 
λ
and Youth of CL 6
4.1 Early
λ
-calculus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64.2 CL in the 1930s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
5
1940
s
and
1950
s
: Consolidation 12
5.1 Simple type theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125.2 Abstract reduction theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135.3 Reductions in CL and
λ
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135.4 Illative systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
6 Programming languages 16
6.1 John McCarthy and LISP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166.2 Peter Landin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166.3 Corrado ohm:
λ
-calculus as a programming language . . . . . . . . 17
7 Syntactical developments 18
7.1 Contributions from the programming side . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197.2 Theory of reductions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
8 Types 23
8.1 The general development of type theories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238.1.1 Types as grammatical categories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248.1.2 Types as sets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258.1.3 Types as objects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268.1.4 Types as propositions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 308.2 Early normalization proofs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 358.3 Higher-order type theories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Universit`a di Milano-Bicocca, Dipartimento di Informatica, Sistemistica e Comunicazione,Milano, Italy. E-mail: cardone@disco.unimib.it
Mathematics Department, Swansea University, Swansea SA2 8PP, U.K. E-mail: j.r.hindley@swansea.ac.uk
To be published in Volume 5 of 
Handbook of the History of Logic,
Editors Dov M.Gabbay and John Woods, Elsevier Co.
i
 
8.4 Intersection types and recursive types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 408.5 Algorithms for simple types . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
9 Models for
λ
44
9.1 Scott’s
D
model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 449.2 Computational and denotational properties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 459.3 Other models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
10 Domain theory 49
10.1 Classical domain theory . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4910.2 Effective domains and Synthetic Domain Theory . . . . . . . . . . . 5310.3 Game semantics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54ii
 
1 Introduction
The formal systems that are nowadays called
λ
-calculus and combinatory logic wereboth invented in the 1920s, and their aim was to describe the most basic propertiesof function-abstraction, application and substitution in a very general setting. In
λ
-calculus the concept of abstraction was taken as primitive, but in combinatorylogic it was defined in terms of certain primitive operators called
basic combinators
.The present article will sketch the history of these two topics through the twen-tieth century.We shall assume the reader is familiar with at least one of the many versionsof these systems in the current literature. A few key technical details will be givenas footnotes, however.
1
Often “combinatory logic” will be abbreviated to “CL”and “
λ
-calculus” to “
λ
”. We shall distinguish between “pure” versions of 
λ
orCL (theories of conversion or reduction with nothing more) and “applied” versions(containing extra concepts such as logical constants, types or numbers).To understand the early history it is worth remembering that the situation inlogic and the foundations of mathematics was much more fluid in the early 1900sthan it is today; Russell’s paradox was relatively recent, odel’s theorems werenot yet known, and a significant strand of work in logic was the building of systemsintended to be consistent foundations for the whole of mathematical analysis. Someof these were based on a concept of set, others on one of function, and there wasno general consensus as to which basis was better. In this context
λ
and CL wereoriginally developed, not as autonomous systems but as parts of more elaboratefoundational systems based on a concept of function.Today,
λ
and CL are used extensively in higher-order logic and computing.Rather like the chassis of a bus, which supports the vehicle but is unseen by its users,versions of 
λ
or CL underpin several important logical systems and programminglanguages. Further,
λ
and CL gain most of their purpose at second hand fromsuch systems, just as an isolated chassis has little purpose in itself. Therefore, togive a balanced picture the present article should really include the whole historyof function-based higher-order logic. However, it would then be too diffuse, so weshall take a more restricted approach. The reader should always keep the widercontext in mind, however.Seen in outline, the history of 
λ
and CL splits into three main periods: first,several years of intensive and very fruitful study in the 1920s and ’30s; next, a mid-dle period of nearly 30 years of relative quiet; then in the late 1960s an upsurge of activity stimulated by developments in higher-order function theory, by connectionswith programming languages, and by new technical discoveries. The fruits of thefirst period included the first-ever proof that predicate logic is undecidable. Theresults of the second attracted very little non-specialist interest, but included com-pleteness, cut-elimination and standardization theorems (for example) that foundmany uses later. The achievements of the third, from the 1960s onward, includedconstructions and analyses of models, development of polymorphic type systems,deep analyses of the reduction process, and many others probably well known tothe reader. The high level of activity of this period continues today.The present article will describe earlier work in chronological order, but willclassify later developments by topic, insofar as overlaps allow. Each later topic willbe discussed in some breadth, to show something of the contexts in which
λ
and
1
A short introduction to
λ
-calculus is included in[Seldin, 2007]in the present volume. Otherscan be found in many textbooks on computer science. There are longer introductions in[Hankin,1994],[Hindley and Seldin, 1986],[Stenlund, 1972]; also in[Krivine, 1990](in French and English),[Takahashi, 1991](in Japanese), and[Wolfengagen, 2004](in Russian). A deeper account is in[Barendregt, 1981]. For combinatory logic there are introductions in[Hindley and Seldin, 1986,Ch.2],[Stenlund, 1972], and[Barendregt, 1981, Ch.7]; more detailed accounts are in[Curry andFeys, 1958, Chs.5–9]and[Curry
et al.
, 1972].
1

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