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The famous Polish scientists

“Gosia, tell us something about the most outstanding Polish people who had a huge influence on science” – I have heard several times. Therefore, I thought that the blog run on our website is a good place for popularizing Polish culture, history, traditions and science. I would like to share knowledge about the most famous Polish scientists. I was wondering whom I should choose and add to my article. Scientists in chemistry, physics or medicine. Women or men. Modern or known long ago. At the end of the day, I made a decision that I should choose people who were crucial for the other people and their achievements in different fields made to the breakthroughs in the world of science.

A list of the top Polish scientists is opened by Mikołaj Kopernik. Born on the 17th of February 1473 in Toruń, a Renaissance astronomer discovered that the Sun, not the Earth, is at the center of the Solar System. Do you know that the most famous sky observer possessed an amazing star shining the most? The most important star in his life was a beautiful woman, a Dutch merchant’s daughter – Anna Schilling.  Based on gossip although,  she was married and brought up several children, allowed herself to keep an affair with Mikołaj Kopernik who was a canon at that time.

Moreover, she was a housekeeper so she was spending a lot of  time with Mikołaj. Generally speaking, even if they were only observing the sky at night and tried to read the horoscope from stars, we have to bear in mind that there was in XVI century. Finally, kind people reported to the bishop Jan Dandyszek of an ongoing affair that scandalized plenty of people. Anna had to come back to Gdańsk, leaving the sad astronomer with his tools and lunettes for watching the sky.

Mikołaj Kopernik is an author of a groundbreaking publication for Astronomia “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium” that was dedicated to Pope Paul III. The book was printed in Nuremberg in 1543. In the same year, the scientist passed away. Some people say that he saw the book before death, the others are sure he didn’t. All agree that his discovery is one of the most important in the history of humanity.

The next Polish scientist who should be on our list is – obviously – Maria Skłodowska Curie (1867 – 1934). Her pioneering research on radioactivity was awarded two Nobel Prizes – the first was 1903  and the second in 1911. After her husband’s death, she was the first woman as a professor at the Sorbonne.

As a child, Maria belonged to ambitious pupils. She loved learning with her sister Bronisława, older than her a few years. Because studying in Paris at the end of the XIX century was extremely expensive so girls arranged that Bronisława arrives in Paris as a first while Maria conducts the lessons for children and send the money for her sister. When Bronisława graduated from University wrote the list to her sister in Poland with information that she was waiting for her in Paris. Maria could study abroad because she had money from her sister. There Maria met her future husband Piotr Curie – the scientist also.

Do you know she prompted Piotr to organize the Honeymoon on a bike? She was the first woman with a short skirt and without a hat who was visiting the other cities by bicycle. Moreover, it is curious, she kept the part of a radioactive element in a jar as a night lamp close to her bed.

In the future, her daughters had to say: mum was never to be afraid of a full life. She took bold everything that the day brought as a gift.

Undoubtedly, her work brought huge effects on medicine. Doctors started using X – rays in place of long arduous examinations of the patient and prediction of treatment.

Our list of five of the most popular Poles can’t exist without Zbigniew Religa (1938 – 2007). He was a Polish cardiac surgeon and Minister of Health between 2005 – 2007. The pioneer in human heart transplantation in Poland could be observed by other people like a man in the cigarette smog because his attribute was a strong cigarette. The doctors who worked in his hospital remembered him as a gourmet of strong black coffee. He had never accepted mediocrity. His team outperformed the others in research and technology of an implantable pump for a pneumatic heart assistance system although at the beginning not it was easy. When he received the job in a clinic in Zabrze, he needed to renovate that place. With the team, they were painting the walls, putting tiles on the wall in the operating room, mopping the floor. We have to bear in mind the first heart transplant took place on the 5th of November 1985 in the new clinic in Zabrze. The 80s was a difficult time for the beginning of transplantation in Poland. It was very hard to receive the member of the family acceptance for organ removal. The concept of brain death was incomprehensible for living people. On the other hand, the doctor was aware that in case his operation was not successful, it would be a huge problem for the future of transplantation generally, also with the other organs for instance: liver, lungs, kidneys and much more. To this day, he is undoubtedly a pioneer of Polish cardiac surgery.

The next famous Pole is Ignacy Łukasiewicz (1822 – 1882), a pharmacist. At that time there was a common product in European dispensary – OIeum Petrae used as a medicine for various ailments and diseases. Łukasiewicz with his workmate became to research the distillation of crude oil which was in popular medicine preparation called Oleum Petrae.  We can’t deny that petroleum was common also among the poor community necessary during frostbite, burns, as a treatment for rheumatism. The use of crude oil in a lamp for lighting houses was a revolutionary discovery. Obviously, as with every new product, in the beginning, people couldn’t notice positive aspects of a new light. Getting used to owning oil lamps they were full of doubts. Moreover, the situation was complicated because the first crude oil lamps broke up and they needed to be remade. Finally, Łukasiewicz constructed a special model of the lamp, for which the tinsmith Adam Bratkowski made a prototype with a tank made of thicker sheet metal. Thus, in 1853, the world’s first crude oil lamp illuminated the windows of a pharmacy. When did the people appreciate Łukasiewicz’s discovery? On the 31st of July 1853 during a long operation, the medical staff could continue working because they had good light. There is a symbolic moment for the whole oil industry. The great Polish inventor gained a huge profit from the selling of pure distilled crude oil. In private life, he was a beautiful person who helped the whole community. He set up the orchards, built new roads or bridges not forgetting about schools or hospitals for poor people.

Our list should be closed by Ernest Malinowski (1818 – 1899) who is at the forefront of railway engineers in the world in the XIX century. His history is complicated. Despite rumors and speculations, he built the longest railway line in the Andes in Peru. The tender for the construction of the railway has been announced by the Peruvian government in 1868. The crucial point was the connection Andes and the Pacific coast. Developing the economy and transporting a lot of products could have been possible or taken less time. Building the web of railway lines and the system of tunnels or bridges was a big challenge as you know there was working on 4000 meters above sea level. After acceptation of the president of Peru Manuel Pardo, Ernest Malinowski started making the first part of a new railway line connecting the port  Callao and Chinola city. The second part of it was the line to La Oroya town.  After the death of Malinowski they continued making the longest and the highest railway in the Andes and nowadays there are 346 kilometers of line.

In the history of each country, one can find the people who were extremely important for the development of humans. Their discoveries were a milestone in science. Choosing appropriate Polish scientists whom the foreigners can be interested in and who can meet their expectations was difficult for me. Several times conducting the lessons for foreign students I have had possibilities to talk about their needs. I have to say they contributed to making this text. The byways of Polish courses in our school one may gain also information about culture, history, habits and everyday life in Poland. I hope my article is useful for you.

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