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Centnerszwer, Mieczyslaw

Centnerszwer, Mieczyslaw

(b. Warsaw, Poland, 10 July 1871; d. Warsaw, 27 March 1944),


Centnerszwer was the son of Gabriel Centnerszwer, a well-known bookseller and dealer in old books, and Rebeka Silberfeld. He graduated from secondary school in 1891, then studied chemistry at the University of Leipzig, where in 1896–1898 he did advanced work under Wilhelm Ostwald and obtained the Ph.D. (1898). Next Centnerszwer became assistant to Paul Walden at the Polytechnic Institute in Riga. He worked with Walden on Arrhenius’ theory of electrolytic dissociation as applied to nonaqueous solvents, especially to liquid sulfur dioxide.

In 1902 he married Franciszka Anna Beck; they had a daughter, Jadwiga. In 1904 Centnerszwer obtained the M.S. at the University of St. Petersburg, and in 1905 he began to lecture on inorganic chemistry at the Polytechnic of Riga, where he was appointed associate professor in 1917 and full professor in 1919.

In 1929 he became doctor honoris causa of the Polytechnic of Riga and moved to Warsaw, where he was given the chair of physical chemistry at the University of Warsaw. In 1930 he was elected to the Krakow Academy of Sciences. During the German occupation of Poland he went into hiding because he was Jewish. On 27 March 1944 he was killed under mysterious circumstances.

Centnerszwer’s scientific writing includes about 120 papers and books, mostly on experimental subjects, in various fields of physical chemistry. He was concerned mainly with chemical kinetics and investigated the thermal dissociation of salt, publishing a number of papers on the corrosion of metals and putting forward a hypothesis concerning the kinetics of the solution of metals in acids. He also conducted ebulliometric investigation of concentrated solutions. His most important publications concern experiments on the solubility and dissociation of substances in waterless solutions of liquid sulfur dioxide, hydrocyanic acid, and cyanogen.

Centnerszwer was the founder of an important and large school of chemists, called the Baltic school. He was the author of several books on inorganic chemistry and physical chemistry, which were published in, or translated into. Polish, Russian, German, French, Spanish, Finnish, and Latvian.


I. Original Works Centnerszwer’s writings include Szkic z historii chemii (Warsaw, 1909), trans, into Russian (Odessa, 1912; Leningrad, 1927); Teoria jondw (Warsaw, 1909); Podrecznik do ćwiczeń z chemii fizycznej, termochemii i elektmchemii (Warsaw, 1912), written with W. Świetos-lawski, trans, into Russian (Riga, 1912). French (Paris, 1914), and Spanish (Barcelona, 1922); Das Radium and die Radioaktivität (Lipsk, Poland, 1913, 1921), trans, into Russian. (Leningrad, 1925) and Finnish (Helsinki, 1915); Die chemische I Verwandschuft and Hire Bedeutung für die Technik (Riga, 1914), trans. into Russian (Petrograd, 1915) Praktikum po chimii (Riga, 1919); Chemiu fizyczna, vol. I, Przemiany maierii (Warsaw, 1922); and Lekcja po nienrganiczeskoj chimii, 2 vols. (Riga, 1923–1924), trans, into Latvian by J. Krustinson (Riga, 1922–1924).

II. Secondary Literature. See S. Łoza. Czy wiesz kto t0 jest? (Warsaw, 1938), p. 95; M. Łaźniewski, “Mieczyslaw Centnerszwer (1871–1944),” in Przemysł ehemiczny. 37 (1958), 246–251; W. Lampe, Zarys historii chemii w Polsce (Krakow, 1948), p. 31; Poggendorfl, IV, 233; and a short biography in Gutenberg, Ilustrowana encyklopedia powszechna, II (Krakow, 1930), 17.

WŁodzimierz Hubicki

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