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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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II. The One Who Spurred the World


Pharmacy and dreams of oil. Entrepreneur and manager. An employer from another era. In the fight for the interests of the oil industry. For the common good – political activity. A good man – philanthropist and social activist. Chorkówka – the charm of the Polish court. Honours and distinctions. The memory of Łukasiewicz. Łukasiewicz – known unknown. Father Ignacy is a model for modern generations. Teamwork. Energy policy and Łukasiewicz’s legacy.

Pharmacy and dreams of kerosene

The surroundings of the town of Gorlice at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains were known for oil leaks, which local landowners also tried to use, especially when the novelty of the oil lamp spread across the country and hopes for using oil for lighting purposes increased. One of the most active in this field was Prince Stanisław Jabłonowski, who in the so-called Empty Forest was engaged in obtaining asphalt from rock oil. He even proposed to Łukasiewicz the establishment of a company, but this one did not come to fruition141.

Initially, Łukasiewicz’s primary source of income in Gorlice became the pharmacy he leased, but at that time he also employed himself as a chemist, zoologist and botanist. He was an analyst and toxicologist. He studied the bodies of the dead and participated in the work of the Gorlice Forests Commission.

The work in the pharmacy not only gave Łukasiewicz a livelihood, but also brought him knowledge of people and their problems, the prevailing relations,...

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