Professor Stanisław Gorgolewski (1926-2011)

Professor Stanisław Gorgolewski
Professor Gorgolewski at a barbeque in 2004 CREDIT: Stuart
Yesterday I received the sad news that Professor Stanisław Gorgolewski died age 84. Professor Gorgolewki, or Stan, was one of the founders of radio astronomy in Poland.

Stan studied physics in Poland after the war and went on to spend some of his PhD at the University of Cambridge working with Martin Ryle of aperture synthesis fame. For many years after that he led the radio astronomy group in Torun and helped to build the 32 metre diameter RT-4 radio telescope in 1994.

During my studies I had the pleasure to visit Torun Radio Astronomy Observatory several times. I got to know the great people that work there and met Stan on a few occasions. He may have been small of height, and advanced of age, but he always had a twinkle in his eye and stories to tell. He was unstoppable. One winter night after some observations I started making dinner for myself in the small kitchen. Stan saw the light on and found me making my dinner. After discussing what I was making, he started telling me stories about his visits to Cambridge, dinners with Martin Ryle, and how they went about building a VLBI correlator during the time that the Soviets were in control of Poland (a story full of intrigue and secrecy). Several hours later, long after I'd finished making my dinner, eating it and washing up, I had to make my excuses to leave so I could actually go get some sleep. He had a lot of stories but I'll always remembering him telling me that "you go up to Cambridge" (his emphasis).

Professor Stanisław Gorgolewski
Stan with his electric field experiments CREDIT: Professor Stanisław Gorgolewski
After his retirement in 1997, Stan took an interest in electric fields and particularly in how they might boost the growth of plants. He operated several experiments to look for an effect. He was optimistic about these experiments and told me that the results could be useful for astronauts on extended missions to Mars (and beyond) who needed to grow their own food. Entering a new field when you retire is a brave thing to do especially without funding. Unfortunately, I got the impression that biologists didn't take his results too seriously.

Stan was a committed vegetarian and practised yoga to keep himself fit. Like many great astronomers, he kept active and kept doing science long into his retirement.

His funeral will take place in Torun tomorrow.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 27th Apr 2011 (14:32 BST) | Permalink
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