Tribute to professor Michał Życzkowski



      Half a century has passed since the moment, when I got to know professor Michał Życzkowski. Therefore, it is not easy to formulate a comprehensive and coherent enunciation about such an eminent scientist.

      It was 1952, when – as an assistant lecturer at the Department of Machine Parts of the Cracow University of Technology – I conducted classes on the design of machine parts for sophomore students at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Michał Życzkowski was among them. In a very short time, he stood out as an able student, distinguished by his knowledge in the domain of theoretical mechanics and strength of materials. He was very inquisitive and he always searched for atypical design solutions. For instance: when designing a screw elevator, he carried out a thorough analysis of the operation of the elevator screw exposed to buckling and of the method of connecting it to the head. When carrying out calculations of a toothed gear, he additionally checked the surface pressure strength of teeth by means of the Hertz method that was not required in the syllabus.

      My contacts with professor Michał Życzkowski did not end, when I finished the classes on machine parts design. As I was also working at the “Bipronaft” Oil Industry Design Office in Cracow as a general designer, I often consulted the professor on difficult design problems concerning, for instance, strength calculations of atypical horizontal cylindrical vessels of pressured industrial overhead pipelines and on other issues. I always received exhaustive guidelines that I used in design studies.

For instance: when designing arterial technological and energy-supply pipelines for Mazowieckie Zakłady Rafineryjne i Petrochemiczne [Refinery and Petrochemical Plant] in Płock, I implemented the method of elastic load capacity – suggested by the professor – to calculate the thickness of the pipeline wall and the spacing of supports. As a result of implementing this method, I increased by 20% on average the distance between pipeline supports, which allowed for considerable reduction of investment costs. The design was implemented in Płock.                                     .

We were granted the award of the Minister of Chemical Industry for this design. During our scientific and technological research cooperation, professor Michał Życzkowski suggested I should use my scientific studies and design studies (several published research articles, course books, pipeline and pipeline mounting design standards, initial designs of the development of the Petroleum Refinery in Glinik Mariampolski and of the Petroleum Refinery in Jasło) to prepare a doctoral dissertation.

I was very happy to hear such suggestion, but I was also worried, whether I would be equal to the task. And professor Życzkowski was known to be a very demanding thesis supervisor. Of course, I accepted the proposal and expressed my readiness to start working on my doctoral dissertation. At a working meeting that took place before long, professor proposed a subject of my dissertation that was construed strictly in accordance with my research interests and my work in the design office, namely: “Limit load-carrying capacity of a pipeline simultaneously subjected to the loads of internal pressure and a bending moment”. At the same time, he expressed his readiness to become my thesis supervisor. I did not need anything more to be happy, so I remember that day until now. We established the working program and the subjects of works for the coming seminars at the Department of Strength of Materials. From that moment on, my contacts with the professor became regular and frequent.

We discussed not only the doctoral dissertation, but also the papers I prepared for the research seminar at the Department. The professor was very insightful and very demanding, but also very obliging. After seminar meetings, the professor often organized unofficial bridge meetings, where he proved himself to be a master as well. I was deeply affected by my first paper delivered at the seminar at the Department of Strength of Materials, which came out well according to the professor. The paper published in Czasopismo Techniczne P.K. [Technical Journal of CUT] 8 (44) 1961 was entitled: “The problem of elastic load capacity of a thin-walled pipeline subjected to the load of internal pressure and a bending moment”.

The following papers delivered at research seminars at the Department involved no less stage fright on my part. I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation on 3rd March 1963. I still kept in touch with the professor. We discussed articles related to the doctoral dissertation and to the work in industry. Together with the professor, we prepared a number of articles printed in Rozprawy Inżynierskie PAN [Engineering Dissertations PAS]. I had the honour to participate actively in the meeting on the professor’s 70th birthday. For me, Professor Michał Życzkowski was an outstanding, exemplary scientist, a warm-hearted and obliging person and he shall remain so in my memory for ever.




Mieczysław Mrowiec

Professor emeritus
Chemical and Process Engineering Institute

Cracow University of Technology