Ignacy Mościcki

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Ignacy Mościcki
President of Poland Ignacy Mościcki.png
Ignacy Moscicki Signature.jpg
President of the Republic of Poland
3rd President of the Second Polish Republic
In office
4 June 1926 – 30 September 1939
Prime Minister Kazimierz Bartel, Józef Piłsudski, Kazimierz Bartel, Kazimierz Świtalski, Kazimierz Bartel, Walery Sławek, Józef Piłsudski, Walery Sławek, Aleksander Prystor, Janusz Jędrzejewicz, Leon Kozłowski, Walery Sławek, Marian Zyndram-Kościałkowski, Felicjan Sławoj Składkowski
Preceded by Stanisław Wojciechowski
Succeeded by Władysław Raczkiewicz (President of the Polish Republic in Exile)
Personal details
Born (1867-12-01)1 December 1867
Mierzanowo, Congress Poland
Died 2 October 1946(1946-10-02) (aged 78)
Versoix, Switzerland
Political party Proletariat (until 1892)
Independent
Spouse(s) Michalina Czyżewska (d.1932)
Maria Dobrzańska (m.1933)
Children 4
Alma mater Riga Technical University
Profession Chemist, scientist and political activist
Religion Roman Catholicism

Ignacy Mościcki (Polish pronunciation: [iɡˈnat͡sɨ mɔˈɕt͡ɕit͡skʲi]; 1 December 1867 – 2 October 1946) was a Polish chemist, scientist, diplomat, politician, and President of Poland from 1926 to 1939.[1] Initially associated with the socialist movement, between 1912-1922 he became a professor at the Lwów Polytechnic. He was an author of the novel method of obtaining nitric acid from the air. In 1925 he was elected Rector of the Technical University of Lwów and professor of the Warsaw University of Technology. In 1926 he was elected president of the Second Polish Republic and his presidency which lasted for over 13 years was the longest in Poland's history. In 1930 he initiated the construction of a chemical complex in Mościce near Tarnów.

After the outbreak of World War II he was interned in Romania. On September 30, 1939 he resigned from the presidency and moved to Switzerland, where he remained until his death. He was buried in the Cathedral of St. John in Warsaw.

Mościcki was considered a great scientist, inventor and a builder of the modern Polish chemical industry.

Early life and studies[edit]

Ignacy Mościcki was born on December 1, 1867 in Mierzanowo near Ciechanów, in a family with a pro-independence tradition. He was the son of Faustyn and Stefania, nee Bojanowska. His grandfather Walenty was a participant of the November 1830 Uprising, and his father and two uncles Jan and Kazimierz took part in the January 1863 Uprising. Early in life Ignacy attended secondary school in Płock. He received the Polish school-leaving certificate in the Private School of Eugeniusz Babinski Memory in Warsaw. In 1887 he was admitted to the chemistry department of the Riga Polytechnicum (Riga Technical University). During his student years in Riga, Prof. Mościcki was engaged in the student’s association “Welecja”, for students who considered themselves Poles. He entered the Związek Młodziezy Polskiej (Association of the Polish Youth, abbreviated “Zet”), a clandestine patriotic organization of Polish students at universities of three partitioning powers. Then he joined up with activists of the “Proletariat II” and established a section of the socialist party in Riga.

Career as a scientist and chemist[edit]

After graduating from the University and writing a graduation work under the direction of Professor and Doctor Karol Bischoff, Mościcki participated in preparation of a bomb attack on the life of the governor general Iosif Vladimirovich Hurka, the Russian Commander-in-Chief of the tsarist army in the Congress Kingdom of Poland. In 1892 Ignacy Mościcki married Michalina Czyżewska and then, threatened with arrest, left Warsaw with his wife and went through Berlin and Rotterdam to London. There he struggled to find a job as a chemist. In 1894, he met Józef Piłsudski, who – after a five-year exile in Siberia – arrived in secret in London. After five-year living in poverty, thirty-year-old Mościcki left London and moved to Switzerland, where he was employed at a Prof. Józef Wierusz-Kowalski’s newly established Physics department at the Catholic University of Freiburg. At that time, this university had the largest Polish students’ population. In Freiburg Mościcki began to study at the Physics-Mathematics department, learning the subject sixteen hours a day. He finished an annual physics class in two months, which brought forward a decision of Prof. Józef Wierusz-Kowalski to offer him an assistant-ship. At this position he set up and demonstrated experiments during lectures in physics, displaying a great skill. Prof J. Wierusz-Kowalski entrusted him with running experiments in physics for senior year’s students and to oversee doctoral studies in an experimental part.

Research and inventions[edit]

Ignacy Moscicki (center) with Mehmed Spaho and Juliusz Ulrych

Running out of Chile saltpeter deposits, growing demand of agriculture for nitrogen fertilizers and industry for nitric acid induced Ignacy Mościcki to start research on synthetic preparation of nitric acid from atmospheric nitrogen and oxygen with the use of an electric arc. After the four-year assistant-ship he resigned from his job at the University to take up a management of the Societe de l’Acide Nitrique in Freiburg, which manufactured nitric acid according to his invention. In order to increase the rate of yield of nitrogen oxides preparation in electric arc he designed high-voltage capacitors and started their production in Freiburg, in 1904. The capacitors produced over twenty years according to his inventions were known by name of Mościcki’s capacitors. In 1905 he finished the work on a very efficient method of nitric acid production on an industrial scale by combustion of air in an electric arc rotated by the field generated by an electromagnet. At the end of 1907 the Swiss company Aluminium Industrie AG Neuhausen signed a contract with Mościcki for the purchase of his patent rights on Swiss and Austrian territories and an obligation for undertaking construction of a 2000 kW nitric acid factory at Chippis. Mościcki personally supervised the erection of the factory, design a construction scheme, order equipment and machinery, its assembly, and technical start-up of the factory. In 1910, a cistern with the first ever made in the world concentrated nitric acid produced with the Mościcki’s method left the factory. In 1912 Mościcki used his rotating-flame furnace for production of hydrogen cyanide from nitrogen and hydrocarbons. He tested a technology for producing of hydrogen cyanide in a 50 kW half-scale pilot plant built at Neuhausen.

The establishment of a modern Physical Chemistry Department[edit]

In the spring of 1912 Ignacy Mościcki received a letter from the Ministry of Education in Vienna informing that a special Physical Chemistry Department would be opened at Lwów Polytechnic. In the letter the Ministry asked also whether Mościcki would agree to manage the Department as an associate professor. The physical chemistry was then the field of study lectured on only at the Leipzig University. The official document appointing Mościcki as the associate professor of Lwów Polytechnic was issued by the education authorities in Vienna in August 1912. After taking an official oath in front of a Galicia Governor, Ignacy Mościcki was given some leave till the end of December for finishing all the matters in Switzerland. During this period he, together with other Poles, established a society for utilization of patents useful for Poland. The patent rights were given to the Society free of charge. Benefits from the utilization were to be allocated for development of science and technology on the Poland territory. On leaving the Switzerland I. Mościcki was the author of 47 inventions protected by patents in Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the United States, Switzerland, and Great Britain. Professor Mościcki at his expense brought to Lwów about a dozen tons of equipment and machinery, organized labs of the Polytechnic Institute of Electro-chemistry and the Chair of Physical Chemistry and Technical Electro-chemistry. At the same time he developed a project of a factory of nitric acid at Miluza and ferrocyanides at Bory near Jaworzno. At the Technical Chemistry Department I. Mościcki gave lectures in physical chemistry and chemical technology. He also delivered lectures on technical electro-chemistry for four-year students. The series of lectures were entitled “Electrochemical methods of a great chemical industry”. Apart from managing of the department and giving lectures he held a dean office of the Technical Chemistry Department for two terms of 1915/1916 and 1916/1917. For the next two terms of 1917/1918 and 1918/1919 he performed a deputy dean function. In 1916 he founded a limited liability company “Metan”. Prof. I. Mościcki and Dr. Kazimierz Kling, professor at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lwów, and then at the Warsaw University were the managers of the company “Metan”. Promoting technological progress in a gas-petroleum industry was the objective of the “Metan”. In 1917, on the initiative of Mościcki, the company began to publish a monthly journal called “Metan”. The journal subtitle was: a monthly journal for natural gas industry issues published by the “Metan” Ltd in Lwów. Professor Kazimierz Kling was announced as the editor of the journal. In the years 1919–1922 Prof. Kling developed many inventions in the field of “petroleum bitumen” processing. The standing out from among these were patents for separating natural petroleum emulsions, atmospheric distillation of crude oil, preparation of natural gasoline from petroleum gas through the process of absorption, chlorination of methane.

Activism in the Second Polish Republic[edit]

Signing of the April Constitution in the Warsaw Royal Castle, 1935

After Poland regained independence in 1918, Mościcki made considerable contribution to organization of the Polish chemical industry. In 1922 Mościcki was nominated the Managing Director of the State Factory of Nitrogen Compounds (PFZA) in Chorzów. During his stay in Chorzуw in the years 1922–1925, Mosciski not only started a production of carbide and nitrogenous fertilizer in the former Bayerische Stickstoffwerke, which had been closed down by Germans, but also put into operation the plant of saponification of nitrogenous fertilizer to gaseous ammonia and ammonia water, the plant of nitric acid, and the plant of soda nitre and ammonium nitrate. The production of nitrogen compounds in the PFZA made Poland entirely free from import. On June 20, 1924 a faculty council of the Electric Department of the Warsaw Polytechnic awarded Ignacy Mościcki an honorary doctorate. The ceremony of awarding the diploma of the Doctor Honoris Causa took place on January 11, 1925. In June 1925 Professor Mościcki was elected the Rector of the Lwów Polytechnic. He did not even manage to assume virtually the function of the Rector, when in January 1925 the Chemistry Department of Warsaw Polytechnic offered him to hold the chair of technical electro-chemistry. From October 1, 1925 he shared his time between classes in two Polytechnics and management of the PFZA in Chorzów.

Presidency[edit]

On June 1, 1926 he was elected the President of Poland by the National Assembly. On taking up the position of the President of the Poland Republic, he declared that he was going to give up the current positions: Professor at Warsaw Polytechnic, deputy Professor at Lwów Polytechnic, and the Managing Director of the State Factory of Nitrogen Compounds in Chorzów. In 1933 he was elected by the National Assembly for the second term. In the years 1927–1930, on the initiative of Mościcki, the modern Nitrate Factory was built near Tarnów, in the suburbs of villages of Świerczków and Zbylitowska Góra.

World War II, exile and death[edit]

After the outbreak of the World War II he left Poland. Interned in Romania he renounced the office of President of Poland and moved to Switzerland, where he worked as a scientist. He died in Versoix near Geneva on October 2, 1946 and was buried in a local cemetery. His ashes were brought to Poland in 1993, rested next to Gabriel Narutowicz and Stanislaw Wojciechowski in the Presidential Crypts in St. John’s Cathedral in Warsaw. Ignacy Moscicki published about 60 scientific works in Polish, French, and German languages. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Lwów Polytechnic, Warsaw Polytechnic, La Sorbonne, and the Universities of Dorpat, Freiburg, Warsaw, and Vilnius. He is known not only as the inventor but also as the father of the chemical industry in Poland.

Gallery[edit]

President of Poland in around 1928 
Session of the Polish Academy of Literature in 1933 
Signing the April Constitution in the Warsaw Royal Castle, 1935 
Joachim von Ribbentrop in Warsaw, 1939 
Proclamation of President of Republic of Poland Ignacy Mościcki from the 1st of September 1939 - considering the state of war between Germany and Poland- beginning of WWII 

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ August Zaleski was president of the Polish Government in Exile for 25 years, from 1947 until his death.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Maciej Rataj
President of Poland
1926–1939
Succeeded by
Bolesław Wieniawa-Długoszowski
as President of the Polish Republic in Exile
Vacant
Title next held by
Bolesław Bierut