History

1857-1918

     The first name of the society was the Society of Friends of Sciences of Poznan (in Polish: Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk Poznańskie). This Society had its first meeting on February 13, 1857, which was attended by 42 founder members. The most significant initiators were: dr Kazimierz Szulc - professor of history in gymnasium, Franciszek Ksawery Malinowski and Tytus Działyński - linguist and priest, and the founder of the Kórnik Library (in Polish: Biblioteka Kórnicka) . The first president of the Society was August Cieszkowski, followed by Tytus Działyński, Karol Libelt, Stanisław Egbert Koźmian and archbishop Edward Likowski. August Cieszkowski held the position of the president three times total.

August hr. Cieszkowski

The foundation of the Poznań Library of Society of Friends of Learning was a very important part of “the longest war of modern Europe”. The first Society members’ goal was, first of all, the protection of endangered national culture and science (according to the motto “unguibus et rostro" – using claws and beaks) and its development under the Prussian partition where there was no possibility of founding a working Polish school of higher education.

The seat of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences, 1906. Photograph of the collections of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences

At first, the Society was thought to be mainly an association of humanities and arts. However, it quickly started to extend its scientific fields by creating departments where research was regularly conducted. The department of natural sciences conducted physiographic of western Poland. Moreover, a chemical laboratory and the department of medicine were established. 

The yard of Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences, 1914. Photograph of the collections of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences

Through the exchange of the Society’s publications (Roczniki TPNP, Zapiski Archeologiczne Poznańskie, Nowiny Lekarskie) many scientific contacts were made - also international - with cities like: Warsaw, Cracow, Lvov, Saint Petersburg, Berlin, Prague, Olomouc, Belgrade, Kharkov, Copenhagen.

Some periodicals and series published by the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences

The library increased fast. Historical souvenirs and national memorials were being collected.

Seweryn Mielżyński - oil portrait painted by Leon Kapliński in 1871 belonging to the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences

Seweryn Mielżyński, the great benefactor of the Society, handed in his valuable art collections (among others, the collection of the Miłosław Gallery – in Polish Galeria Miłosławska), the painting collection of Edward Rastawiecki which he had purchased before and archeological and numismatic collections. The office building of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences, built later also thanks to Mielżyński’s generosity and designed by Zygmunt Gorgolewski, became a cultural, historical and national center. At the beginning of the twentieth century the property extended its area thanks to the generosity of the citizens of Poznan. Particularly helpful was Roman Plewkiewicz, a merchant and financier. An architect Roman Sławski enlarged the two existing old outbuildings with two new outbuildings and with a building placed at the street’s side – taking no charge for the service as he was the Society’s member. This shape has the building of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences today. The Society members – as soon as the Society was created - endeavored to place in Poznań the first statue of Adam Mickiewicz who had then died. The original stone monument stood for tens of years in the Society’s yard. During the Prussian partition period the Society was the only organizer of scientific life in Greater Poland and an uncontested authority in this field.

 

1918-1989

Regaining independence in 1918 was for the Society members a reason to continue efforts to reach the purpose of its predecessors which was setting up a university in Poznań. The Society’s president - Heliodor Święcicki, became the first rector of the newly founded university. His successor was Bronisław Dembiński. As Poland was a free country, most of the collections were handed down to the recently created national museums. The Society slowly changed its character and became a free academic corporation instead of being a scientific institution.

During the Second World War tens of members  of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences died tragically. The Library’s collection of books was dispersed and partly lost. The archive was seriously damaged and the building demolished. After the War, already on May 16, 1945, the Historical Commission (in Polish: Komisja Historyczna) resumed its work. The structure of the corporation was being slowly rebuilt during the presidency of Zygmunt Lisowski. Traditional physiographic research of western Poland was resumed. Moreover, many new researches and both editorial and popularization activities were initiated.

These actions which helped the Society regain its traditional place in scientific life of Poznań and of the whole country were conducted by the succeeding Society’s presidents: Zygmunt Wojciechowski, Kazimierz Tymieniecki, Stefan Barbacki, Gerard Labuda, Zdzisław Kaczmarczyk, Zbigniew Zakrzewski.

Unfortunately, the unfriendly attitude of local and state authorities towards the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences not only caused partial loss of the Society’s property but also weakened its members’ energy in the face of the country-wide economic crisis in the seventies and of the collapse of the social spirit after the 1981.

 

After the 1989

The internal crisis of the Society, according especially to the economic aspect which looked catastrophically, started to be slowly adverted during the presidency of Antoni Gąsiorowski. The Society’s proprietary rights were gradually recovered, the real estate was revalued and – in spite of the decreasing state grants which financed only selected scientific activities – a basis for continuation of the scientific activities of the corporation was achieved.