Zygmunt Janiszewski (June
12, 1888 in Warsaw – January 3,
1920 in Lwów, Poland) was a
His mother was Julia Szulc-Chojnicka. His father, Czeslaw
Janiszewski, was a graduate of the University of Warsaw and was an
important person in finance, being the director of the Société du
Crédit Municipal in Warsaw.
Janiszewski taught at the University of Lwów and was professor
at the University of
At the outbreak of World War I
he was a soldier in the Polish Legions
of Józef Piłsudski
, believing he was
fighting for Polish independence.
He refused to swear an oath of allegiance to the Austrian
government, as it was too much for a loyal Pole such as himself. He
left the legion and hid under the false name of Zygmunt
Wicherkiewicz in Boiska, near Zwolen. From Boiska he moved on to
Ewin, near Wloszczowa, where he directed a refuge for homeless
At the end of the war it was Janiszewski who was the main force in
the remarkable creation of one of the strongest schools of
mathematics in the world. It is all the more remarkable given the
position in which Poland found itself at the end of the war.
Janiszewski donated the inherited family property left by his
father for charity and education. His main interest was topology
. He also donated all prize money he
received from mathematical awards and competitions to the education
and development of young Polish students.
He was the driving force, together with Wacław Sierpiński
and Stefan Mazurkiewicz
, behind the journal
, a mathematical journal. Janiszewski proposed
the name of the journal in 1919, though the first edition was
published in 1920, after his death. It was his intention that the
first edition be comprised solely by contributions from Polish
mathematicians. It was Janiszewski's vision that Poland become a
world leader in the field of mathematics.
was sadly cut short during the influenza pandemic of 1918-19, which
tragiclly took his life in Lvov on January
3, 1920 at the age of just 31 years.
He willed his body to
be used for medical research, and his cranium for craniological
study, desiring to be "useful after his death".
wrote a commemorative address after Janiszewski's death, honoring
his humility, kindness and dedication to his work -
Enthusiasm and strong will characterised Janiszewski not only
in his scientific work, but in his life generally. His
active participation in the Legions, his refusal to take an oath
which was not compatible with his patriotic conscience, his work in
the field of education, when at a most difficult time he entered
that field as an enlightened and wise worker, free of any prejudice
and partiality and ardently keen only to propagate light and truth
- these facts prove that in the heart of a mathematicians seemingly
detached from active life there glowed the purest emotions of
affection and self-denial. If we also mention that, having
very moderate needs himself, he dispensed all the means at his
disposal to educate young talents, and that he bequeathed the
property that he had inherited from his parents for educational
purposes, and in particular for the education of outstanding
individuals, then we may indeed exclaim from the bottom of our
hearts that the memory of that life, devoted to the cause and
interrupted so early, lives on in its results and deeds and will
remain treasured and living for us, the witnesses of his work, and
for generations to come.
Whilst Janiszewski is best remembered for his many contributions to
the development of topological mathematics in his native Poland
during the early Twenty-first century, the foundation of the
journal Fundamenta Mathematicae, and his enthusiasm for teaching
young minds; his loyalty to his homeland during the great war
perhaps gives the greatest insight into his psyche.The orphaned
children's shelter he set up during the war doubtlessly saved many
lives, and is perhaps his greatest contribution to the world. His
premature death, while a great loss to mathematics, was an immense
loss to society and the world as a whole.
- Kazimierz Kuratowski, A
Half Century of Polish Mathematics: Remembrances and
Reflections, Oxford, Pergamon Press, 1980, ISBN 0-08-023046-6,
pp. 158–63 et passim.