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A Prometheus on a Human Scale – Ignacy Łukasiewicz

Piotr Franaszek, Paweł Grata, Kozicka-Kołaczkowska Anna, Mariusz Ruszel and Grzegorz Zamoyski

This book is dedicated to the life and work of Ignacy Łukasiewicz, Polish pharmacist whose world-renowned achievements include construction of the world’s first oil refinery and invention of the modern kerosene lamp. The authors also portray the history of the Galician oil industry and set it in the context of political, social and technological changes taking place in the 19th-century Central and Eastern Europe.

"The work adds substantially to existing scholarship in English. As the author of the only English-language academic monograph devoted to a general history of the Galician oil industry, I can attest that this manuscript adds significant and important information, details, depth of investigation that is not provided in my book or any other book. It therefore makes a novel contribution that will be very valuable to anyone looking for a truly detailed account of Ignacy Łukasiewicz’s contribution within the context of the Galician oil industry in general."

Alison Frank Johnson

Professor of History and of Germanic Languages and Literatures

Harvard University, Center for European Studies


"The authors sketch the profiles of two outstanding Poles, pioneers of the oil industry – Ignacy Łukasiewicz, MSc. in Pharmacy, and mining engineer and geologist Witold Zglenicki, called the Polish Nobel (...) This scientific work is an interesting and captivating read. It can be used not only by scientists and students, but also by everyone who is interested in industrial cultural heritage (...)."

Krzysztof Broński

Professor and Head of Department of Economic and Social History

Economic University in Kraków

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I. The One Who Said Goodbye to the Candle


In nostra terra. From the temple of eternal fire to the Zglenicki platform. Unwritten masterpieces. And this is what Poland is. From Kościuszko’s homeland. Carnival in the colour of blood. The conspirators from the “Hotel pod Luftmaszyną.” How can we doubt the good results… A manuscript under a lucky star. Studies – the most urgent intention of all. There will be no white spirit. We distill! I need lamps for this and that – one of these and one of those.

In nostra terra

“For there is no light for it to hide under a bushel.

Nor the salt of the earth for kitchen spices”1

Cyprian Kamil Norwid “Promethidion” (1851)

“In nostra terra, scilicet Polonia”2

Vitello (1230–1314)

Take two rulers and a map of Europe. With one ruler, link Norway’s highest fjords with Greece’s lowest shore. With the other, divide the half-vertical Spanish shore and the mountain range of Europe’s border with Asia. At the point where the sticks cross, lies Cracow. The heart of Europe. A thousand years old, the first capital of Poland. It is dominated by Wawel Hill. The castle of former Polish kings, which is viewed in the mirror of the Vistula River. The queen of Polish rivers writhes in a gentle arch at its feet. A few streets further, at the Jagiellonian University, Ignacy Łukasiewicz – a man who, in the name of mankind, took the first few...

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