IEW News entry #6 – Polish Nobel laureates

IEW News entry #6 – Polish Nobel laureates

Maria Skłodowska Curie | 1903 Physics & 1911 Chemistry

Marie Skłodowska Curie (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, and was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.

Portal in Warsaw: Pomnik Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie

 

Henryk Sienkiewicz | 1905 Literature

Henryk Adam Aleksander Pius Sienkiewicz also known by the pseudonym “Litwos” (5 May 1846 – 15 November 1916) was a Polish journalist, novelist and Nobel Prize laureate. He is best remembered for his historical novels, especially for his internationally known best-seller Quo Vadis (1896).

Born into an impoverished Polish noble family in Russian-ruled Congress Poland, in the late 1860s he began publishing journalistic and literary pieces. In the late 1870s he traveled to the United States, sending back travel essays that won him popularity with Polish readers. In the 1880s he began serializing novels that further increased his popularity. He soon became one of the most popular Polish writers of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, and numerous translations gained him international renown, culminating in his receipt of the 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature for his “outstanding merits as an epic writer.”

Portal in Warsaw: Pomnik Henryka Sienkiewicza –

 

Władysław Reymont | 1924 Literature

Władysław Stanisław Reymont (7 May 1867 – 5 December 1925) was a Polish novelist and the 1924 laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His best-known work is the award-winning four-volume novel Chłopi (The Peasants).

In November 1924 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature over rivals Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw and Thomas Hardy, after he had been nominated by Anders Österling, member of the Swedish Academy. Public opinion in Poland supported the Nobel for Stefan Żeromski, but the prize went to the author of Chłopi. Żeromski was reportedly refused for his allegedly anti-German sentiments. However, Reymont could not take part in the award ceremony in Sweden due to a heart illness. The award and the check for 116,718 Swedish kronor were sent to Reymont in France, where he was being treated. He died in Warsaw in December 1925 and was buried in the Powązki Cemetery. The urn holding his heart was laid in a pillar of the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw.

Czesław Miłosz | 1980 Literature

Czesław Miłosz (30 June 1911 – 14 August 2004) was a Polish poet, prose writer, translator and diplomat. His World War II-era sequence The World is a collection of twenty “naïve” poems. Following the war, he served as Polish cultural attaché in Paris and Washington, D.C., then in 1951 defected to the West. His nonfiction book The Captive Mind (1953) became a classic of anti-Stalinism. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley.

In 1978 he was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and in 1980 the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1999 he was named a Puterbaugh Fellow. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he divided his time between Berkeley, California, and Kraków, Poland.

Lech Wałęsa | 1983 Peace

Lech Wałęsa (born 29 September 1943) is a retired Polish politician and labour activist. He co-founded and headed Solidarity (Solidarność), the Soviet bloc’s first independent trade union, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, and served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995.

While working at the Lenin Shipyard (now Gdańsk Shipyard), Wałęsa, an electrician, became a trade-union activist, for which he was persecuted by the Communist authorities, placed under surveillance, fired in 1976, and arrested several times. In August 1980 he was instrumental in political negotiations that led to the ground-breaking Gdańsk Agreement between striking workers and the government. He co-founded the Solidarity trade-union movement.

After martial law was imposed in Poland and Solidarity was outlawed, Wałęsa was again arrested. Released from custody, he continued his activism and was prominent in the establishment of the 1989 Round Table Agreement that led to semi-free parliamentary elections in June 1989 and to a Solidarity-led government.

In the Polish general election of 1990, Wałęsa successfully ran for the newly re-established office of President of Poland. He presided over Poland’s transition from communism to a post-communist state.

Józef Rotblat | 1995 Peace

Sir Joseph Rotblat KCMG CBE FRS (4 November 1908 – 31 August 2005) was a Polish physicist, a self-described “Pole with a British passport”. Rotblat worked on Tube Alloys and the Manhattan Project during World War II, but left the Los Alamos Laboratory after the war with Germany ended. His work on nuclear fallout was a major contribution toward the ratification of the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A signatory of the 1955 Russell–Einstein Manifesto, he was secretary-general of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs from their founding until 1973, and shared, with the Pugwash Conferences, the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize “for efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international affairs and, in the longer run, to eliminate such arms.”

Wisława Szymborska | 1996 Literature

Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska (2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Prowent, which has since become part of Kórnik, she later resided in Kraków until the end of her life. In Poland, Szymborska’s books have reached sales rivaling prominent prose authors: although she once remarked in a poem, “Some Like Poetry” (“Niektórzy lubią poezję”), that no more than two out of a thousand people care for the art.

Szymborska was awarded the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature “for poetry that with ironic precision allows the historical and biological context to come to light in fragments of human reality”. She became better known internationally as a result of this. Her work has been translated into English and many European languages, as well as into Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Persian and Chinese.