Science in Vilnius University

Mokslas Vilniaus Universitete

Vilnius University, established by the Society of Jesus in 1579 and now known as one of the oldest and most distinguished higher schools in Central and Eastern Europe, paved the way not only for the development of Lithuanian higher education, but also nurtured many a generation of scientists, poets, and culture personalities. Works of great magnitude – professor theses (as well as manuscripts and books), research of the most prominent scientists, publications from best European publishing houses (Plantin Press, House of Elzevir), old cartography materials – by the famous founders of Vilnius University, generous patrons, rectors of this higher school, and distinguished professors and alumni all reveal the distinct intellectual and cultural tradition of the university and the extraordinary significance to the development of national culture. Among the people that greatly contributed to the university are dukes Sigismund Augustus and Stephen Bathory, bishop of Vilnius Walerian Protasewicz, nobles Mikołaj Krzysztof “the Orphan” Radziwiłł and Kazimierz Leon Sapieha, and distinguished Jesuits – the first Rector of Vilnius Jesuit College Stanislaw Warszewicki, the first Rector of Vilnius Jesuit Academy and University Piotr Skarga, auxiliary bishop Georgius Albinius and others. The achievements of Vilnius University professoriate and their students in the field of humanities are significant to entire Europe – the erudites were always interested in the philosopher Martinus Smiglecius’s textbook Logica and admired orator Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski’s poetry; the political sciences were greatly influenced by jurist Aaron Alexander Olizarowski’s book On Political Sociability, rhetorician and music theorist Zygmunt Lauxmin’s textbook Oratory Practice or Laws of the Art of Rhetoric, republished many times over, as well as mathematician Adalberto Tylkovski’s Philosophia curiosa – in addition to the most important philosophical excerpts from the works of Aristotle, the book includes natural science achievements of the Renaissance. In addition, the global scientific context was complemented by a military engineer Casimir Siemienowicz’s treatise Artis Magnae Artilleriae, as well as achievements by astronomer Thomas Zebrowski, famous brothers physician Jędrzej Śniadecki and mathematician Jan Śniadecki, naturalist Georg Forster, father and son physicians Johann Peter Frank and Joseph Frank, historian Joachim Lelewel, poet Adam Mickiewicz, prose historian Simonas Daukantas, and many others.

Semenavičius, K. Artis magnae artilleriae pars prima. Amsterdam, 1650

Vilnius University alumnus, engineer Casimir Siemienowicz (circa 1600 – after 1651) in his treatise Artis Magnae Artilleriae developed the first ideas of a multistage rocket and rocket artillery, and provided drafts for a multistage rocket. The book was released to great acclaim, promptly translated into French, German, English, Dutch, Danish, Polish (and currently being translated into Lithuanian), and for the longest time was used to train military officers. The treatise for the first time summarizes military achievements, describes improvements for artillery engineering and explosive technologies based on laws of physics and mathematical calculations, and defines the properties and constructional qualities of rockets.

BAV – Bibliotheca Academiae Vilnensis

Bibliotheca Academiae Vilnensis (BAV), a collection shaped by centuries of history, is one of the most valuable stocks in the library. It contains books from the personal collections of Sigismund Augustus, Georgius Albinius, Walerian Protasewicz, Ostafi Wołłowicz, Sapieha and Pac family and other university professors and alumni. This stock, which has an intrinsic historical-cultural value, collects educational literature (textbooks), canon and civil law treatises, various dictionaries and encyclopaedias, studies of other countries and general history, natural sciences, architecture, art and music publications. After the university was closed in 1832, a large part of the collection was transported to Russia and was returned only in 1950’s. The books are kept in accordance with the old historical call numbers. It is speculated that the majority of the stock is the work of Vilnius bookbinders.