Kazimierz Kordylewski – Biography

Kazimierz Kordylewski was born in Poznań on October 11, 1903 as a son of Władysław and Franciszka, neé Woroch. He lived in Poznań until 1924. In 1922 he graduated from Maria Magdalena High School. His involvement in social activities at school earned him recognition, most notably for his two year term as a president of Sowa society, a Polish youth organization publishing it's own paper "Młodzież Sobie".

He became interested in Astronomy as early as in 1913. This would become his major area of study after he enrolled at the University in Poznań. After 1924 he continued his studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, where he was immediately offered a position of Assistant Professor in The Cracow Astronomical Observatory, under direction of Prof. Tadeusz Banachiewicz.

In 1923 he participated in the geodetic surveying expedition by the Copernicus National Astronomical Institute in Cracow. In 1924 and 1926 he supervised fieldwork during two consecutive expeditions to perform the leveling of the intercity highway Cracow-Kielce. He graduated from the University in 1926. His first discovery occurred in the same year; he discovered a new star T-Corvi.

The following years mark his numerous sabbaticals at foreign locations: Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Czechoslovakia in 1926, Swedish Lapland in 1927 (where he organized and directed one of three stations for solar eclipse observations), The Netherlands in 1928 (where he became a member of the International Astronomical Union and participated in its Congress in Leiden), in Austria and Dalmatia in 1931, in 1936 he participated in the Polish Expedition to observe the solar eclipse in Greece, and where for two additional months he continued astronomical observations on the Chios Island.

In 1929, he married Jadwiga Pajakówna. They had four children: Jerzy, Zbigniew, Wanda Kordylewska-Dutka, and Leszek.

In 1932, he obtained his PhD degree in Astronomy from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow.

During World War II and Nazi occupation he discontinued his basic research work, which was reduced to occasional activities. He supported himself from shop keeping. He was of great help to Prof. Banachiewicz, who became imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. Kordylewski took care of the Cracow Observatory property as well as Prof. Banachiewicz’s personal items, after the professor was evicted from his apartment in the Observatory. In particular, Kordylewski saved valuable astrolabes and other antique instruments by burying them in the cellars of the historic Observatory building. He did not allow demolition of some of the instruments and prevented their planned transfer to the Observatory in Poznań. In 1944, threatened by deportation to Germany, he changed his appearance by growing a beard, and went into hiding in his own suburban orchard.

After the liberation of Cracow in 1945, Kordylewski immediately returned to the Cracow Observatory to continue his astronomical observations and organizational activities. He resumed his leadership of the Department of Scientific Instruments of the National Astronomical Institute. He was active in this Department since its creation in 1933, and became its director in 1948. The Department was taken over by the Jagiellonian University in 1951. Kordylewski was also one of the co-founders and leaders of the University Cooperative.

On September 1st, 1945, he volunteered to become an acting director of the Observatory in Wrocław, which he reclaimed, not without great effort, from the Red Army. After organizing the work there, Kordylewski transferred the Observatory in Wrocław together with the field station in Białkowo (then Belkawe) into the hands of Prof. Eugeniusz Rybka, who arrived from Lwów in October 1945. In the Cracow Observatory, Kordylewski organized time service and started broadcasting the time signal with the help of Polish Radio in Cracow, which continued broadcasting it until 1975. In 1954, Kordylewski coordinated construction work of the radio telescope in Cracow.

After World War II, Kordylewski continued working at Cracow Observatory as an Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in the Department of Observatory Astronomy, which was headed by Prof. Rybka after the death of Prof. Banachewicz in 1954. Kordylewski lectured Astronomy with Mathematical Geography in the Jagiellonian University and in the State Pedagogical University in Cracow and in Rzeszów, as well as Astronomy to physics students in the Universities of Cracow and Lublin. He also taught courses in Spherical Astronomy, Practical Astronomy, and Stellar Astronomy at the Jagiellonian University. Since 1957 he was also leading specialized courses linked to his area of expertise: problems of astronautics, binary stars, and space dust in the orbit of the moon.

To perform his astronomical observations, Kordylewski extensively traveled abroad. In particular, starting 1952, he began traveling to Czechoslovakia. In the Tatra Mountains, in 1956, he discovered two dust moons of Earth from the Lomnica Mountain. In 1962, he traveled to Hungary to the Observatory in the Matra Mountains. In 1960s, he went to East Germany, where he was one of the first users of the newly built 2-meter telescope in Tautenburg, near Jena.

In 1966, Kordylewski traveled to East Africa as an organizer and director of an expedition of the Polish Astronautical Society. The visual observations performed from the deck of the Polish Ocean Lines cargo ship lead to the discovery of the matter, which follows the orbit of the moon, forming a ring around Earth. The observations conducted during a similar expedition to West Africa in 1973 and around the African continent in 1974 allowed him to obtain the image of the faces of the dust moons in the orbit of the moon. These images surpassed the results of the American photoelectric imaging conducted from the orbiting observatory OSO-6, which merely confirmed the existence of the dust moons without providing data on their microstructure.

Kordylewski gave numerous lectures at foreign institutions in Kiev, in Budapest, in Ondrejov near Prague, in Amsterdam, in Brussels, in Brno, in Odessa, at CERN in Geneva, and on Berlin TV. He actively participated in Congresses of International Astronomical Union: in Moscow and St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) in 1958, in Hamburg in 1964, in Prague in 1967.

In Cracow, Kordylewski supervised sabbaticals of four Hungarian, two Bulgarian, and one East German astronomer. He was a promoter of two doctorates: of Jerzy Kreiner in 1970, and Zbigniew Dworak in 1974.

Starting 1948, Kordylewski was active in the Board of Directors of the Society of Amateur Astronomers and the Polish Astronomical Society. After 1956, he served as the president of the Cracow Branch of the Polish Astronautical Society. He was also a member of its Central Board of Directors in Warsaw from 1964 to 1980. He directed the Cracow Station of Satellite Observations in the years 1958 to 1967.

Since 1964, he was also a member of the Polish Esperanto Association.

Starting 1924, for almost 50 years (interrupted by WWII), Kordylewski was employed by the Cracow Observatory of the Jagiellonian University. However, his retirement in 1974 did not stop his activity as a researcher and activist. His scientific outputs contain more than 100 publications. He was equally recognized for his devoted observatory work on the eclipsing binary stars, as well as for his work in the interpretation of the collected data. His research work was paralleled by intensive activity popularizing Astronomy in the Common Knowledge Society (Towarzystwo Wiedzy Powszechnej), in schools, and on both Polish Radio and TV. Kordylewski highly valued the scientific merits of Prof. Banachiewicz; therefore, he successfully arranged for the reburial of Banachiewicz to the Skałka Pantheon in Cracow. As a devoted patriot, Kordylewski suggested that the new solar bodies he discovered, the Dust Cloud Moons of Earth, should be called "Polish Moons," instead of the proposed name "Kordylewski's Moons."

Kordylewski was awarded a Silver Honorary Badge of the Polish Society of Amateur Astronomers (1971), an Honorary Badge of the Committee for Radio and Television (1971), an Honorary Badge of Polish Astronautical Society (1971), the Bronze Medal of NASA (1972), the Golden Cross of Merit (1973), a Medal of the Polish National Education Commission (1974), a Medal commemorating 500th anniversary of Copernicus' birth, and the Bachelor's Cross of the Polonia Restituta Order (1979).

Kazimierz Kordylewski died suddenly on March 11, 1981, at the age of 77. The burial was preceded by a holy mass conducted by the Jesuit Fathers at The Sacred Heart Basilica in Cracow. From there, His Eminence Cardinal Franciszek Macharski conducted the casket with his remnants to the Family Tomb at the Rakowicki Cemetery. After learning of Kazimierz Kordylewski's death, the Holy Father John Paul II sent a telegram with his condolences.