Polish Physical Society in Krakow Wojciech Gawlik (Jagiellonian University in Krakow)

The Krakow Branch of the PPS was established shortly after the Society establishment in 1920, continuing a long tradition of the physics institutions at the Jagiellonian University (JU)

Among physicist active in these early years were Professors Zygmunt Wróblewski, August Witkowski, Władysław Natanson, Marian Smoluchowski and Konstanty Zakrzewski. After creation of the Academy of Mining (now AGH University of Technology) physics became present also in that school in 1919 and developed by Professors Mieczysław Jeżewski and Marian Mięsowicz.

Researchers from both universities became active members of the Krakow Branch of the PPS from its very beginning.
prof. Władysław Natanson

The first head of the Krakow Branch, became Władysław Natanson, one of the co-founders of PPS (together with Konstanty Zakrzewski). Until 1965, the Branch was located in the Witkowski Collegium (currently housing the Faculty of History of JU), later in the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics building at the Reymont street, and since 2015 in a New Science Campus of JU.

As in the entire Society, the activity of the Branch was focused on organization of scientific meetings for discussion of the current physics achievements as well as general lectures for a wide audience.

These meetings were inspired by physical seminars initiated by professors Witkowski and Natanson in 1895, then led by Marian Smoluchowski and Konstanty Zakrzewski. Since 1920, the Krakow Physical Colloquium (Conversatorium) was officially endorsed by the Branch and became an important institution for Krakow's scientific life, particularly vivid after Prof. Jan Weyssenhoff’s move to Krakow from Vilnius in 1935.

During the German occupation, the physical facilities of JU and Mining Academy were largely devastated and the Witkowski Collegium was taken by the Nazis. Still, Krakow physicists, as far as possible, secured their apparatus, worked theoretically and organized secret teaching.

After World War II, the Krakow Branch resumed its activity on February 10, 1945, and prof. Jan Weyssenhoff was elected its chairman. An unprecedented revival of scientific activity, resumption of teaching and development of novel research avenues took place. It was additionally stimulated by Henryk Niewodniczański’s arrival to Krakow, his appointment in the second Chair and Department of Experimental Physics of JU and initiation of modern science. Professors Niewodniczański, Mięsowicz and Weyssenhoff were the main driving force in the Krakow's scientific life during the first post-war years. Their students and successors successfully continued the work of their masters.

from left: prof. Marian Mięsowicz, prof. Henryk Niewodniczański, prof. Jan Weyssehoff

Despite hard starting conditions, Krakow physicists developed foreign cooperation. In 1947, prof. Weyssenhoff and colleagues organized the 1st International Cosmic Ray Conference in Krakow with participation of such celebrities as P. Auger, P.M.S. Blackett, C.F. Powell, and J.A. Wheeler. That meeting became a great opportunity to resume contacts of Polish physicists with foreign scientific centers.

An important role for the Krakow community is played by the Krakow Physical Conversatorium, which has become an important institution. Seminars and discussions with Professors Niewodniczański, Mięsowicz and Weyssenhoff left unforgettable impressions in all participants.

During the 100 years of its existence, the Krakow Branch has hosted PPS members eight times (Congresses in 1924, 1934, 1950, 1965, 1973, 1993, 2009 and 2019). The Branch organized and stimulated creation of the PPS Teaching Section, which lively cooperates with various international teaching organizations. In addition, together with the FAIS Faculty of JU, the Branch publishes journals Foton and Neutrino for students and teachers. The Branch also organizes diverse activities for students and teachers - various competitions, shows, open days, festivals, etc.

During the lecture I will present the most important facts about the Branch and its activities since 1920 and its contribution to the Society's activities.

(in the photo: lecture by Jan Weyssenhoff at the 7th Congress of Polish Physicists in Krakow, 1934)

Professor dr hab. Wojciech Gawlik is a professor at the Institute of Physics of the Jagiellonian University.

He was the head of the Atomic Optics Department and the creator of the Photonics Department in the Institute of Physics of JU. He deals with atomic physics, cold matter physics and nonlinear and quantum optics. He is a pioneer of experimental cold matter research in Poland and co-founder of the National Laboratory of Atomic and Optical Physics in Toruń.

He was the head of the Krakow Branch of the Polish Physical Society in 1995-97 and 2009-11.

October 16th, 2020 at 6pm

Physics Hall, Warsaw Univeristy of Tehcnology


Photos by Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe, Wojciech Gawlik