Professor Michał Życzkowski
A scientist, a teacher, a citizen
Professor Michał Życzkowski was born on 12th April 1930 in Cracow. In 1954, he completed his university studies at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Cracow University of Technology. Two years before, he started to work at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of the Cracow University of Technology as a trainee assistant lecturer and then as an assistant lecturer. When he was still a student, he published 5 independent texts in “Przegląd Mechaniczny” [Mechanical Engineering Review] and “Rozprawy Inżynierskie” [Engineering Dissertations]. Furthermore, he published independently a book entitled „Tablice funkcji Eulera i pokrewnych” [Tables of Euler and related functions] (PWN, Warsaw 1954).
When he was 25, he defended his doctoral dissertation in 1955. In 1957, he got a research placement in London. In 1958, he received the Diploma of the Imperial College in London. In 1960, he defended his postdoctoral dissertation to become the first person with a post-doctoral degree at the Cracow University of Technology. In 1962, he received the title of an associate professor and in 1969 he received full professorship. In 1973, he became a corresponding member of the PAS and a regular member in 1989. Once the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences was re-established in 1991, he became its active member.
In 1995, the Cracow University of Technology granted him a doctoral degree honoris causa. In 1997, he was selected regular member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In over 150 years of history of the AAS, he was one of 10 Poles and the only representative of technical sciences. The two exceptional distinctions were the most valued ones by the professor.
Professor Michał Życzkowski as a scientist.
The scientific oeuvre of professor Michał Życzkowski is impressive. He authored three books and co-authored 13 books published in reputable publishing houses in Poland and abroad. The following three titles inspired the greatest pride in the professor:
He authored 83 scientific texts published in renowned Polish and international journals and co-authored another 139 texts. He authored 25 texts in published in conference proceedings, published primarily after international conferences, and 11 collective works. At scientific congresses and conferences held on different continents, he presented 57 papers that promoted the achievements of Polish science in the world.
Professor Michał Życzkowski as a teacher and a tutor.
The professor took exceptional care of the development of young talents, beginning with students and ending with professors. He vehemently supported their efforts to acquire university titles, their membership in renowned research organizations, e.g. PAS and PAAS, and was in favour of granting them doctoral degrees honoris causa at Polish and foreign universities.
He was a member of the „Basic Technological Problems” Didactic Team at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education (1974-1981), where he prepared a curriculum for the Applied Mechanics specialization that was launched first at the Cracow University of Technology in 1975, and then at the Warsaw University of Technology and the Gdańsk University of Technology. In this field of studies, universities educated students in the domain of broadly-understood mechanics of materials and structures and of its applications to engineering problems. A year later, following the example of curricula prepared by professor Michał Życzkowski, the specializations of “Applied Vibroacoustics” and “Applied Mathematics” were launched within the BTP at the AGH University of Science and Technology, the University of Warsaw, the Wrocław University of Technology, the UP.
After ill-considered liquidation of the “Basic Technological Problems” specialization in 1989 by the Ministry, professor Michał Życzkowski made an effort to launch an inter-faculty specialization of Computational Mechanics under the aegis of the Faculty of Civil Engineering, the Faculty of Sanitary and Water Engineering and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. The specialization was first launched at the Cracow University of Technology in 1991. The general curriculum and detailed course curricula published under the title “Computational Mechanics – Curriculum and Course Catalog” – Tadeusz Kościuszko Cracow University of Technology, 1992 (192 pages) – was met with very favourable opinions of major universities in Austria, France, Japan, Germany, USA and UK.
He meticulously traced the didactic process of the students of these specializations and maintained detailed statistics. He invited graduates to his flat in Żuławskiego Street for a cup of tea, cakes, casual talks and asked them to make entries in a special visitors' book. Although the specialization that demanded a lot on students, it managed to educate the total of over 320 masters of science and engineers, sought after both by modern plants /e.g. Delphi Automatics Systems, Asea – Brown – Boveri, Arthur Andersen Consulting/ and by Universities and computation centres.
When he served as the director of the Institute of Mechanics and Machine Construction in the years 1973-1996 (the first non-Party director of an institute at the Cracow University of Technology after the reorganization in 1973), he prepared a model curriculum vitae of a researcher that contained many rather steep milestones in three domains: science, education, organization. In each of them, containing 4 to 10 items, a researcher together with his/her tutor or individually – after acquiring the degree of a doctor – reported annually to make a “confession”. After the presentation of the report and an interview with the director, the researcher received a green arrow pointing to the left (works realized ahead of time) or a red arrow pointing to the right (a delay).
Invited by many foreign universities, professor Michał Życzkowski conducted series of lectures on the theory of plasticity, the optimization of the shape of structures subjected to dynamic loads with respect to elastic and plastic considerations, aimed at doctoral students and professors in England, Brazil, the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, the USA and in Italy.
Professor Michał Życzkowski promoted 29 doctors. He reviewed 37 postdoctoral dissertations and 61 doctoral dissertations. He was a promoter in two proceedings aimed at granting a doctoral degree honoris causa of the Cracow University of Technology.
Organizational activities of professor Michał Życzkowski for the development of Science
Professor Michał Życzkowski was a founding member of the Polish Association of Theoretical and Applied Mechanics in 1958 and a vice-chairman of the Central Board of the PATAM in the years 1969-1971, the chairman of the Committee of Applied Mechanics in the Cracow Division of PAS in the years 1984-1992, the vice-chairman of the Committee of Mechanics of PAS in the years 1984-1993, a member of the State Committee for Scientific Research in the years 1989-2001, the chairman of the Editorial Committee of the encyclopaedic publication entitled Mechanika Techniczna [Technical Mechanics] prepared in the period 1991-2006. The professor considered the following to be his major international scientific and organizational achievements: the function of a member of a five-person team assessing IUTAM symposium projects in the period 1984-1992 (he was appointed to this function at a General Assembly of IUTAM in Lyngby in 1984) and the function of a correspondent of the Euromech organization in the territory of Poland in the period 1975- 1996. In this period, he proposed Polish researches for Euromech colloquia. IN Cracow, he organized two international conferences: 4th Polish-German conference „Mechanics of I? Media and Structures” in 1987 and the IUTAM Symposium „Creep In Structures IV” in 1990. In Udine, he organized a research and training conference „Structural Optimization under Stability and Vibration Constraints” in 1988. He was also a member of editorial teams in scientific journals: 6 foreign and 4 Polish ones.
Among numerous received awards, Professor appreciated the most the following:
Professor Michał Życzkowski was decorated with the Knight's Cross, the Officer's Cross and the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Medal of the Commission of National Education. He also received numerous departmental and trade decorations.
Professor Michał Życzkowski as a citizen
Professor Michał Życzkowski was not only an extraordinary scientific and moral authority. Together with his wife, Teresa, they brought up four children and helped bring up 11 grandchildren (now: 12), teaching them diligence, honesty and patriotism.
He shall remain in our memory as an extraordinary researcher and a generous-hearted man.
Professor Józef Nizioł
Former Director of the Institute of Mechanics and Machine Construction