Many recollections about Michał Życzkowski, who was also my Master, have already been published. Some focused on his contribution to the development of science (J.Skrzypek: ZAMM, 8, 86, 2006; J.Nizioł: Nasza Politechnika, 3(63)/2007), while others showed the merits of his mind and character in the relations with doctoral students (Z.Waszczyszyn: Nasza Politechnika. 3(63)/2007 ; M.P.Wnuk: Nasza Politechnika, 5(77)/2009). It is difficult to add anything new to the content of these beautiful studies and essays that reflect my opinions as well.

Therefore, I will allow myself to add only a few memories of the professor, related to long years of our cooperation. It began at the start of 1964, when I – a fifth year student at the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry of the Jagiellonian University and an assistant lecturer at the Department of Physics of the Cracow University of Technology – turned to associate professor M. Życzkowski to ask him to supervise my master’s thesis at the department of Theoretical Physics (according to the suggestion of my colleague from the Chair of Physics, doctor B. Zajączkowski). Having acquired the consent of the dean of the faculty, professor B. Średniawa, associate professor Życzkowski also gave his assent to my request and proposed a subject for my thesis, focusing on the issues of plate stability. The subject was selected with perfect intuition, as these issues were related to the questions of proper values of differential equations, so important for quantum mechanics. The subject also satisfied my interest in physics, as well as my attachment to technical mechanics, which I developed at the Faculty of Civil Engineering of the CUT.

This was the beginning of hard work, both for me and for the supervisor of the master’s thesis and later of my doctoral dissertation. It required huge patience, tact and tolerance on the part of my Tutor. I will quote several examples that illustrate these character traits of the Master.

As a result of over twenty years of research cooperation, we decided in 1984 to prepare a monograph that was planned to contain our achievements in the domain of optimum structure shape in the conditions of stability loss and present it against the background of very vast world literature on the subject (finally, we included over 2000 titles in the monograph). I am sure that we took the majority of quoted works from the professor’s superb library. This, however, required us to pester the professor at home. The professor’s patience was admirable in this case, and all the more so, as our work often finished with a dinner shared with his family, which additionally occupied the professor’s wife, Mrs. Teresa. The monograph entitled „Optimal Structural Design under Stability Constraints” was published by the Kluwer Acad. Publ. in 1988.

In 1985, we participated in a training conference entitled “Modern problems of structure stability”, organized by professor Z. Waszczyszyn in Janowice (near Zakliczyn). We presented our joint work by giving several hours of lectures. Due to the small amount of hotel rooms combined with a considerable number of participants, each room was occupied by two or three persons. I happened to stay with professor Życzkowski in one room. Unfortunately, I fell ill on the first day of the conference. I got a severe cold with strenuous fits of coughing. The fits occurred mainly at night. After the first sleepless night and several hours of lecturing, Michał – with his characteristic thoughtfulness he manifested with respect to all his charges - he went with me to the nearby Zakliczyn to look for appropriate medicines. In spite of the medicines, however, the fits of coughing kept recurring for the next three nights. In such conditions, the conference reached its end, and I did not hear a complaint even once, even when we were returning to Cracow in my Fiat 126p, driven by a driver with high fever and not quite in his senses.

In 1995, we attended the first World Congress WCSMO-1 on „Structural and Multidisciplinary Optimization”  in Goslar, where we were to present our works. Michał had already had a heart attack and a serious operation consisting in implanting bypasses. We planned for him to travel in a relatively fast, 15-years-old BMW vehicle. The crew consisted of Michał, his wife Teresa and me. After some twelve kilometers, Michał proposed me to drive the car from the moment on. After my experience with the “toddler’ Fiat 126p, driving a BMW car was quite a challenge and an wonderful adventure. Therefore, ever now and then, I heard the passengers crying out “Antek! Break!!!”, “Antek! Slow down!!!”, „Antek! Stop!!! There is a traffic jam!” It ended up in Michał almost falling in a faint near Magdeburg, as he still did not feel quite well after the operation. Fortunately, Goslar was not far away and after almost an hour of rest, Michał decided to drive the car by himself. Indeed, one has to have the patience of a saint with one’s charges and collaborators.

Finally, I would like to quote recollections that will remain in my memory forever.

 In 1993, soon after Michał’s operation, I visited him with my wife at the hospital in Rabka. We were astounded with Michał’s scientific passion. In spite of strenuous rehabilitation exercises and still not very good physical condition, at that time and in such conditions, he was working on a publication entitled “Heart attack in the light of the continual theory of destruction”. Some time later, the work was published.

Similarly, during our last visit at Michał's home (around 10th May 2006), when Michał already was resting on a hospital bed in his house, we learned during our conversation that he had just signed an opinion on granting professorship to one of his collaborators. On account of this, he proposed to drink a glass of white wine and said “It will surely do me no harm". We wished him good health and all the best, although everybody was aware of the fact that it was our farewell meeting.




Prof. Antoni Gajewski

Cracow University of Technology

Cracow, 8th December 2009