The year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth, as well as the 140th anniversary of the death of this eminent Pole, called by many “the Polish king of paraffin”. In the justification of the appointment we read: “The Sejm of the Republic of Poland, due to the great and extraordinary contribution of Ignacy Lukasiewicz to the industry and economy of Poland, as well as his commitment to the fight for the independence of the homeland and care for employees, makes 2022 the Year of Ignacy Lukasiewicz”. Currently, the list of 2022 patrons includes: Maria Konopnicka, Maria Grzegorzewska, Wanda Rutkiewicz, Ignacy Lukasiewicz and Jozef Mackiewicz.
The outstanding achievements of this great Pole were noticed much earlier. In Bobrka, there is the Museum of the Oil and Gas Industry named after Ignacy Lukasiewicz; he is the patron of many schools and competitions, as well as Lukasiewicz Research Network, which at the time of its creation, i.e. on April 1, 2019, was the largest research network in Poland and the third largest one in Europe. Its main goal is to “increase the transfer of innovative technologies to the Polish economy”.
Ignacy Lukasiewicz was born in 1822 in the village of Zaduszniki in the Subcarpathian Province. Due to the difficult financial situation of his family, he started working in a pharmacy after completing 4 classes of junior high school. Initially, it was a job in Lancut, then in Rzeszow. He was in prison for two years (1846-1848) because he was accused of illegal activities against the Austrian partitioner and it was related to a secret patriotic organisation he joined. Then he worked in a pharmacy in Lviv, where he returned after obtaining a master’s degree in pharmacy (he studied in Krakow and Vienna). At the same time, in the back of the pharmacy, he conducted research on crude oil together with a colleague, also an employee of the pharmacy, Jan Zeh. As a result, he obtained light paraffin oil. In 1853, the world’s first oil lamp was created, which initially did not arouse much interest.
July 31, 1853 marks a remarkable date, as this is when a surgical operation was performed for the first time in the hospital in Lyczakow, Lviv, with the light coming from oil lamps (made by Adam Bratkowski, a Lviv tinsmith, based on Lukasiewicz’s design). It is symbolically assumed that this is the date of the beginning of the Polish oil industry. Lukasiewicz was interested in areas rich in oil deposits, and it was in Bobrka, in cooperation with Tytus Trzecieski and Karol Klobassa-Zrencki, that he founded the first oil company in the world that began to extract and exploit crude oil.
Of course, initially the technology was very basic, but with time it was improved with the knowledge and experience gained. There was so much oil that Lukasiewicz decided to found the first crude oil distillery in Poland (1856, Ulaszowice). He received numerous awards abroad for his products and achievements. He was also active in other fields, as he saw the need to help people: he set up communal credit unions that granted low-interest loans, and introduced a social insurance system for farmers (Kasa Bracka). He also had achievements in the field of charity, for which Pope Pius IX awarded him the title of Papal Chamberlain, and the Order of St. Gregory the Great (1873). He died of pneumonia in 1882.
An outstanding Pole who was able to combine science with industry. Today, for many of us he is a role model, because, as the saying goes, he was ahead of his time and thus achieved so much.