Brożek (or Broscius), Jan

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Brożek (or Broscius), Jan

(b. Kurzelow, near Sieradz, Poland, November 1585; d. Krakow, Poland, 21 November 1652)


Brożek’s father, Jakub, was an educated landowner who taught his son the art of writing and the principles of geometry. Jan went to primary school in Kurzelow and then to the University of Krakow, where he passed his baccalaureate in March 1605. Among his professors were Stanislaw Jacobeius and Walenty Fontanus. In March 1610 Brożek won the rank of magister, and in 1611 he was ordained a priest. His contacts with Adriaan Van Roomen (Romanus), an eminent Belgian mathematician then in Krakow, greatly influenced his studies.

Early in 1614 Brożek became a professor at the Collegium Minus of the University of Krakow, where he was assigned the chair of astrology, and in 1619 at the Collegium Maius. In 1618 he traveled to Torun, Danzig, and Frombork to gather material on Copernicus. In 1620, at Innsbruck, he met the astronomer Christoph Scheiner. From June 1620 to June 1624 Brożek studied medicine in Padua, receiving his doctorate in medicine in 1624, and was physician to the bishop of Krakow until the autumn of 1625. In 1625 the University of Krakow elected him professor of rhetoric, and in 1629 he gave up his chair in astrology because he had received higher ecclesiastical orders and had become canon of St. Anne’s church. He then passed his baccalaureate in theology and became professor of that discipline.

In 1630 Brożek gave up his chair of rhetoric, and from April 1631 to December 1638 he was director of the library of the Collegium Maius. He became active in organizing the teaching of “practical geometry,” which was entrusted to his favorite pupil, Pawel Herka, with some supervision on his part during 1635 and 1636. In 1639 Brozek presented his library to the University of Krakow, along with a substantial sum for the purchase of additional books and instruments. He gave up his professorship and the apartment at the Collegium Maius, as well as the canonry of the church of St. Florent, and moved to Międzyrzecze. In 1648, however, he returned to Krakow, where he received the master of theology. In February 1650 he became doctor of theology, and rector of his university in 1652.

Brożek’s loyalty to the University of Krakow, one of his strongest characteristics, even surpassed his attachment to the Catholic Church. On the side of the university he took part in the fight against the Jesuit domination of schools, sending reports to Rome and making ten trips to Warsaw (1627–1635) in order to defend the university’s rights. In the course of his struggle he answered a letter from a priest, Nicolas Lęczycki, by publishing (1626) a satirical dialogue, Gratis, which was soon burned in the public square of Krakow. It provoked a long answer from a priest, Frédéric Szembek, entitled Gratis plebański gratis wyćwiczony (“The Priests’ Gratis Gratuitously Beaten,” Poznan, 1627).

It was Brożek’s hope to write the history of the University of Krakow, showing its role in the general development of science and education in Poland, but fragments of manuscripts are all that remain. The most important are “De antiquitate litterarum in Polonia” and an excellent biography of Stanislaw Grzepski, Polish geometer and philologist of the sixteenth century. In spite of his being enlightened and erudite, a partisan of progress who was active in reforming the teaching of mathematics, Brożek was not free from astrological prejudices or belief in the magical properties of numbers and their relation to medicine.

Brożek was the author of more than thirty publications. The ones concerning Copernicus, and particularly those dealing with mathematics, which won him the reputation of being the greatest Polish mathematician of his time, are of considerable interest. Among the first are the poem Septem sidera (of doubtful authenticity) and many Copernican documents but, unfortunately, not the letters by and about Copernicus that Brożek collected but did not publish that are now lost. In the second group are his purely mathematical works and opuscules, the most important being Arithmetica integrorum (1620), a new didactic manual, in which logarithms, then recently discovered, were introduced in schools; Aristoteles et Euclides defensus contra Petrum Ramum (1638), reissued in 1652 and 1699 under the title Apologia pro Aristotele…; a dissertation containing original research on the star-shaped polygons; and two treatises entitled De numeris perfectis (1637, 1638), which brought new results, at the time, on perfect numbers and amicable numbers. There one finds the basic theorem of the elementary theory of numbers, better known as Fermat’s theorem, which was published in 1670 (also without its proof).

Jan Brożek should not be confused with Nicolas Brożek, nephew or grandson of his sister (b. Kurzelow, ca. 1635; d. Krakow, 1676). His scientific and ecclesiastic career was very similar to Jan Brożek’s, but with only slight results, even for his epoch.


I. Original Works. Among Brożek’s more than thirty writings are Arithmetica integrorum (Krakow, 1620); Gratis (Krakow, 1626); De numeris perfectis (Krakow, 1637, 1638); and Aristoteles et Euclides defensus contra Petrum Ramum (Krakow, 1638), reissued as Apologia pro Aristotele… (Krakow, 1652, 1699). Available in manuscript are parts of “De antiquitate litterarum in Polonia” and the “Biography of Stanislaw Grzepski,” and Brożek’s diary for 1636–1643, with gaps, in the form of notes written in the margins of the “Ephemerides” edited by L. Eichstadt, MS Bibl. Jagellone, Krakow, sign. Mathesis 513 R.X.VI.12.

II. Secondary Literature. Works dealing with Brożek are M. A. Baraniecki, Arytmetyka, 2nd ed. (Warsaw, 1894), pp. 43–49; H. Barycz, Wstęp i przypisy do nowego wydania Gratisa (“Introduction and Commentaries on the New Edition of Gratis”), Vol. LXXXII of Biblioteka Pisarzy Polskich (Krakow, 1929); and “Pierwszy historyk nauki i kultury w Polsce” (“First Historian of Science and Culture in Poland”), in Księga pamiątkowa ku czci W. Sobieskiego (“Commemorative Volume in Honor of W. Sobieski”; Krakow, 1932); A. Birkenmajer, “Brożek (Broscius), Jan,” in Polski słownik biograficzny (“Dictionary of Polish Biography”), II (Krakow, 1937), 1–3; L. A. Birkenmajer, Nikołaj Kopernik, I (Krakow, 1900); A. Favaro, Tito-Livio Burattini (Venice, 1896), p. 74; W. Konczyńska, Zarys historii Biblioteki Jagiellońskiej (“Sketch of the History of the Jagelone Library”; Krakow, 1923); J. Krókowski, De septem sideribus, quae Nicolao Copernico vulgo tribuuntur (Krakow, 1926); a monograph on Brożek, with portrait; Z. Mysłakowski, Walerian Magni, Vol. LI A of Rozprawy Wydziału matematyczno-przyrodniczego PAU (Krakow, 1911); K. Piekarski, Ex libris Jana Brożka, Vol. III of Silva rerum (Krakow, 1927); E. Stamm, “Z historii matematyki XVII wieku w Polsce” (“History of Mathematics in the Seventeenth Century in Poland”), in Wiadomości matematyczne, 40 (1935); and S. Temberski, Roczniki (Krakow, 1897). A long monograph on Brożek, containing a reproduction of his portrait at the University of Krakow, was published by J. N. Franke (Krakow, 1884).

B. Knaster