Gentlemen, you do not seem to be excessively talkative



The story I want to tell begins not long before I completed my studies in the Applied Mechanics specialization, set up by professor Życzkowski and therefore considered to be his “child”, and rightly so. At the beginning of the ‘70s, thanks to the professor’s efforts, it became possible to employ graduates with this specialization at the Institute of Mechanics and Machine Construction, where the professor was a deputy director at the time. I belonged to the second group of students who graduated at this elite specialization in a given successive year, so there appeared possibilities of employment for me as well. Together with Edward Cegielski, my friend from the group of Applied Mechanics students, we managed to get under direct tutelage of professor Życzkowski and start a long cooperation with the Professor that turned out very challenging and fruitful for us, newly-graduated specialists in Applied Mechanics.

It quickly turned out that professor Życzkowski was a great believer in the participation of young, even the youngest ones, researchers in scientific conferences and he selected for them conferences of as prestigious as possible. Right after I started to work - formally, my employment started on 1st November 1972 – professor Życzkowski communicated to both of us:

“Next year in August, a IUTAM symposium entitled ‘Optimization in Structural Design’ is going to be held in Warsaw. I want you to participate in this event.” Having turned to me, he said: “I would like us to prepare a work on stability-oriented coating optimization for this conference.”

The professor unfolded the vision of an expedition to Warsaw, of meetings with leading Polish and foreign optimizers and, of course, encouraged me to work hard. There was not much time left, which one can see from the remote perspective of today. The work progressed pretty fast, primarily thanks to consultations on an almost daily basis, pieces of advice and hints from the professor and thanks to his immeasurable forbearance and patience.

The quickly approaching deadline for the article preparation was not what worried me most at the time. What gave me sleepless nights was the thought about how I would manage to get along in Warsaw with my – to be frank –meagre knowledge of English.

I managed to finish the work in due time and we finally went to Warsaw to face world-recognized researchers. The three of us – the professor, Edward and me – went to Warsaw. Indeed, the conference gathered famous researchers both from the East and from the West, and the conference itself was certainly a scientific and organizational success. However, it was the conference banquet that was to be one of the most important non-scientific attractions for us, young rookies. And it was. Me and Edward, we were standing among a crowd of conference participants talking in English. We did not quite understand what they were talking about and it was certainly not due to the hubbub of voices. We were unable to participate in these conversations and we did not feel well about it. Most probably, we did not look relaxed and in high spirits, as our situation was not very funny. After some time of embarrassing silence, the professor fished us from the crowd and immediately found out how the wind blew. We expected him to be displeased with us. We expected to hear his famous catchphrase "I will have to give you a dressing-down, misters", which he used in the state of utmost agitation, when he got irritated with someone or someone had let him down. He did not say anything like that. The professor came up to us and simply said:

 “Gentlemen, you do not seem to be excessively talkative !”

We did understand what he meant. The professor’s witty comment impressed us greatly and produced an almost immediate effect. The same evening, in the banquet hall, we promised ourselves to be more talkative at the next conference – if we should happen to participate in one after this disaster.

Today, I can say that my participation in the conference (forced by the professor) and the professor’s comment during the banquet had an enormous impact on my fate. I learned English and the cooperation for the IUTAM conference was the beginning of my doctoral dissertation, written under the tutelage of professor Życzkowski.




Professor Jacek Krużelecki

Cracow University of Technology