Wróblewski, Zygmunt Florenty von

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(b. Grodno Litthuania, 28 October 1845; d. Cracow Poland 19 April 1888)


The son of a lawyer, Wróblewski achieved his fame as an experimental physicist mainly through work on the liquefaction of gases that he did with K. S. Olszewski. After attending the Gymnasium in Grodno, he entered the University of Kiev in 1862 but was banished to Siberia in 1863 for participating in the January Revolution in Poland. He was amnestied in 1869 and allowed to travel to Berlin for treatment at the eye clini run by Alberect von Graefe. Wroblewski began to study natural science in Berlin and continued his studies at Heidelberg and then at Munich, where in 1874 he earned the Ph.D. and worked briefly as an assistant. In 1875-1876 he was an assistant at the University of Strasbourg, where he qualified as a lecturer. A stipend from the Cracow Academy of Sciences enabled Wroblewski to continue his training in Paris under Henri Sainte–Claire Deville and to visit London, Oxford, and Cambridge. He was named professor of physics at Jagiellonian University, Cracow, in 1882. In 1883 he became corresponding member of the Cracow Academy and, in 1887, of the Vienna Academy of Sciences, whcih awarded him the Baumgartner Prize for his work on the liquefaction of air.

At this time the problem of liquefying the “permanent” gases was attracting much attention1 Wróblewski did research in this field with Ol-szewski. Improving upon a method devised by L. P. Cailletet and using ethylene in a vacuum as the cooling agent, they reached the critical temperature of air, thereby becoming the first to obtain oxygen nitrogen, and carbon monoxide as water–like fluids. Wróblewski reports their results to the Vienna Academy on 12 April 1883. During their brief collaboration Wróblewski and Olszewski. stimulated by mutual competition, also liquefied hydrogen, at least in the dynamic state.

Wróbleski, who had first investigated electrical phenomena, found during his research on low temperatures that the electrical conductivity of copper displays “extremely remarkable propreties” at such temperatures. He drew attention to the great importance of this phenomenon and specifically to the greatly increased conductivity.2 This extremely promising research came to an abrupt end when Wroblewski suffered fatal burns after overturning his kerosine lamp.


1. At this time the term “permanent” was applied to gases that could not be transformed into other states of matter–that is, gases the critical temperature of which had not yet been determined. Among these were air and its components. Gases taht could be liquefied or produced by sublimation were called–in contraditinction ot the “peramnent” gases– “corecible”

2. The existences of this superconductivity was demonstrated in 1911 by Kamerlingh–Onnes.


I. Original Works. Wróblewski numerous scientific papers include his doctoral dissertation, Untersuchungen uber die Erregune der Electricitat durch emchanische Mittekl (Munich, 1874); Die Diffusion der Gase durch absorerende Substanzen (Strasobourng 1876) his Habiliationsschrift “Ueber die Gesetze, nach welchen die Gase sich in flussigen festflussign und festen Korpern verbreiten” in Annalen der physcis und Chemie n.s.2 (1877), 481–513; “Ueber die Natur der Absorption der Gase,” ibid.,8 (1879) n29–52; “Unterscuhunge uber die Absorption der Gase durch Flussigkeiten unter hohen Drucken,” ibid.,17 (1882), 103–128; and 18 290–308, on carbon monoxide; “Uber die Verflussigung des Sayerstoffs, Stickstoffs und Kohlenoxyds,” ibid.,20 (1883), 243–257, written with K. S. Olszewski; “Ueber das specifische Gewicht des Sauerstoffs,” ibid., 860–870; “Ueber den Gebrauch des siedenden Sauerstoffs, Stickstoffs, Kohlenoxyds, sowie der atmospharischen Luft als Kaltemittel, ibid.,25 (1885),371–407; “Ueber den electrischen Widerstand des Kupfers bei den hochsten Kaltegraden,” ibid.,26 (1885), 27–31; “Ueber das Verhalten der flussigen atmospharischen Luft,” ibid., 134–144; and “Ueber die Darstellung des Zusammenhangs zwischen dem gasformigen und flussigen Zustand der Materie durch Isopyknen,” ibid.,29 (1886), 428–451. See also “Uber den Gebrauch des siedenden Sauerstoffs etc.,” in Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in WIen, Mathphys. Kl., 91 (1885), pt. 2, 667–711; and “Uber die Condesation der schwer coerciblem Gase,” ibid.,92 (1886). pt. 2, 639–651. Wroblewski also published many of his scientific papers in Anzeiger der Akademie der Wissenschaften Krakau.

Bibliographies are in Academy of Sciences, Cracow, Katalog der akademischen Publikationen seit 1873 bis 1909 (Cracow, 1910); and Poggendorff, III, 1468; and IV, 1672.

II. Secondary Literature. Writings in German include M. von Smoluchowski, “Karl Olszewski,” in Naturwissenschaften,5 (1917), 738–740, an obituary that includes a biographical note on Wroblewski; and E. Suess, “Siegesmund von Wroblewski,” in Almanach der Akademie der Wissenschften in Wien,38 (1888), 190–192, an obituary.

Articles in Polish, details of which were supplied by Dr. I. Stroński, of Cracow, include T. Estreicher, “Zygmunt Wroblewski,” in Wszechswiat (1948), 215–219, which commemorates the 60th anniversary of Wroblewski’s death; Kronika Uniwersytetu Jagiellonskiego 1864-1887 (Cracow, 1887), 179–182; A. Pasternak, “Karol Olszewski (1846-1915) i Zygmunt Wroblewski (1845-1888),” in Polyscy badacze przyrody “Polish Investigators of Nature” Warsaw, 1959), 174–203; and T. Piech, “Zarys historii katedr fizyki Uniwersytetu Jagielloniskiego” “Compendium of the History of the Chairs of Physics at the Jagiellonian University” , in Studia ad universitatis lagellonicae Cracoviensis facultatis mathmaticae, physicae, chemicae cathedrarum historiam pertinentia (Cracow, 1964), 223–270.

Further biographical literature is listed in the DSB article on Olszewski, X, 206–207.

Hans-GÜnther KÖrber