In memory of Professor Jerzy Andrzej Chmurzyński

On 1st July 2019, Professor Jerzy Andrzej Chmurzyński (11.03.1929 - 1.07.2019), ethologist and philosopher, Father of Polish ethology, passed away.

J. A. Chmurzyński graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences at the University of Warsaw. At the beginning of his scientific career, he worked as a deputy assistant in the Department of Systematic Zoology at the Warsaw University, but then committed almost all his further professional life to the Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology PAS. He considered himself a student of two eminent scholars, Professor Jan Bohdan Dembowski, from the Department of Biology of the Nencki Institute PAS, and Professor Roman Józef Wojtusiak, from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. His curiosity about the world was insatiable. He was an entomologist and ethologist, particularly fond of field research. His favourite research object was the solitary sand wasp, Bembix rostrata. However, he also studied the behaviour of other solitary Aculeata, in particular the mining bee, Dasypoda hirtipes (earlier known as Dasypoda altercator), and carried out laboratory experiments investigating photic responses of various species of flies.

Professor Chmurzyński was also one of the worldwide pioneers of research on biological roots of aesthetic sensibility. He also analysed other similarities and differences between humans and animals, and discussed ethical aspects of behavioural research. His numerous publications from the borderline of biology and philosophy dealt, among others, with such issues as the dichotomies Good vs Evil, Truth vs Fiction, Beauty vs Ugliness, and the importance of Time in biological processes and in culture.

During many years, Professor Chmurzyński participated in the proceedings of the Scientific Council of the Nencki Institute (acting as its Secretary or Vice President), and of the Institute of Zoology PAS. He was also a longtime member of the Commitee of Evolutionary and Theoretical Biology PAS, and Commitee of Zoology PAS, and acted as Vice President of the Multidiciplinary Research Team of the University of Warsaw and the National Museum of Archaeology in Warsaw „Peculiarity of Man".

He was an excellent lecturer, and also co-authored a famous handbook of behavioural sciences, highly appreciated by many generations of students and amateurs of these sciences  [B. Sadowski and J. A. Chmurzyński (1989) Biological mechanisms of behaviour, PWN Warsaw]. This handbook is still in use today. He was a man of great learning, always ready to share his encyclopaedic knowledge concerning ethology, along with many other issues. During many years, he was completing his amazing, exhaustive „Encyclopaedic dictionary of biology of behaviour and related questions", accessible on the server of the Nencki Institute. He also took part in numerous radio broadcasts and TV programmes.

While still working as a young researcher at the Department of Biology of the Nencki Institute PAS, J. A. Chmurzyński created famous Ethological Seminars, which started to be held at the Nencki Institute in 1966, more than half a century ago. He was also one of the founders of  the Polish Ethological Society (PTEtol.)(1991), and the first President of that Society. He was also an active member of other scientific societies, in particular the Polish Zoological Society (PTZool.), where he belonged to the group of founders of Ethological Section. He was also active at international level: during many years he acted as the delegate of Poland to the International Ethological Committee (1975-1985), and then as the delegate of Eastern-European Countries (without USSR) to the International Ethological Council (1985-1989).

Professor Chmurzyński had many other passions besides his scientific activities. He loved classical music, composing his own musical pieces, and played piano. He also painted beautiful landscapes with oil paints. He was fascinated by astronomy, and was fond of older S-F books and bicycle tours, and, while still young, was passionate about sailing. He was, above all, an exceptionally warm, selfless person, generally loved and adored. He will continue to be our authority and guide, and his merits for the development of Polish ethology, and other behavioural sciences, will be gratefully preserved in our memory.

Ewa J. Godzińska

Student of Professor Chmurzyński

Date of publication
11 July 2019