DISCOVERY OF OXYGEN BY
MICHAł SĘDZIWÓJ IN 1604 AD
A POLISH PIONEER OF
THE SCIENCE OF CHEMISTRY
Michał Sędziwój (Michael Sendivogius, Sędzimir) (1566–1636) of Ostoja coat of arms, was a Polish alchemist, philosopher, and medical doctor. A pioneer of chemistry, he developed ways of purification and creation of various acids and metal and other chemical compounds, which he started to put in order 200 years before Dimitry Ivanovich Mendeleyev created the first version of the periodic table of elements.
Sędziwój discovered that air is not a single substance and contains a life-giving substance which later was called oxygen. Hi did it 170 years before Scheele and Priestley. He correctly identified oxygen as 'food of life' and obtained it in form of gas given off by heating nitre (saltpeter) the central position in Sędziwój's universe.
Sędziwój’s legend states that he used this philosopher's stone to convert large amounts of gold from quicksilver. Sędziwój was captured and robbed by a German alchemist Muhlenfels in service of the German prince, Brodowski, to steal Sędziwój's secret. Sędziwój complained of Muhlenfels' crime to the King of Poland Sigimund Vasa and to Habsburg emperor in Prague, who ordered Muhlenfels be brought to court. Brodowski captured Muhlensfels and had him hanged in his own court yard. The plunder was returned to Sędziwój.
Sędziwój was born in noble family that was part of the Clan bearing coat of arms of Ostoja. His father send him to study in university of Kraków and later Sędziwój visited also most of European universities including Vienna, Altdorf, Leipzig and Cambridge. He met among others John Dee and Edward Kelley whom he intrduced to the King of Poland Stefan Batory who agreed to finance their experiments. In the 1590s visited Prague and the court of Rudolf II.
He returned to Poland and was at the court of King Sigismund Vasa around 1600, and achieved great fame, as the Polish king was himself an alchemy enthusiast and even conducted experiments with Sędziwój. In Wawel Castle in Kraków, in a chamber where his experiments were performed is still intact. His work in Poland involved the design of mines and metal foundries for production of canon barrel. He was Polish diplomat from about 1600 on and used his widespread international contacts. The most famous of his books "A New Light of Alchemy", which was published in Latin in its original form in 1605. Sędziwój wrote his books in alchemical language, which was understandable only by other alchemists. Besides a clear exposition of Sędziwój's theory on the existence of a 'food of life' or “spirit of life” in air, his books contain various scientific and philosophical theories, and were translated and published many times. His books were widely read and his readers included ISAAC NEWTON into the 18th century
Jan Matejko painted a portrait of "Alchemik Michał Sędziwój." , 73 x 130 cm. It is in Museum of Arts in Łódź.
Development of rocket science in Poland by
After contributing his expertise to several battles, Siemienowicz published Artis Magnae Artilleriae in 1650. This innovative work, which discussed rocketry and pyrotechnics, was a standard text in Europe in those fields for two centuries.
Kazimierz Siemienowicz, coat of arms Ostoja used Latin version: Casimirus Siemienowicz, and was known in Lithuanian as: Kazimieras Simonavičius, and in Belorussian Казімір Семяновіч, born c. 1600 - c. 1651). The official language of all the state documents of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was Belorussian – language used in Lithuania by the Jagiellonian Dynasty.
Kazimierz Siemionowicz was a Polish-Lithuanian artillery general as well as a military engineer and a gunsmith. He was artillery specialist and pioneer of rocketry. He was born in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and he served the armies of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which since 1569 became a Nobless Democracy in which by 1634 lived over one million of free citizens. General Siemionowicz spent a few years in the Netherlands where he published in Latin his pioneering book on rocketry. No portrait or detailed biography of him has survived and much of his life is a subject of dispute. He was educated at the Jesuit University of Vilno and was fascinated by artillery since childhood, and he studied many sciences to increase his knowledge (mathematics, mechanics, hydraulics, architecture, optics, tactics). In 1632-1634 he took part in the war against Muscovy in the siege of Biała under general Mikołaj Abromowicz and in 1644 he took part in the Battle of Ochmatów. During the Spanish-Dutch war; he participated in the Siege of Hulst in 1645. In 1646 he returned to Poland, when King Wladyslaw IV created the Polish artillery corps and gathered specialists from Western Europe, planning a war against Turkey and its vassal the Crimean Tartars. He served as an engineering expert in the field of artillery and rocketry in the royal artillery forces. From 1648 he served as Second in Command of Polish Royal Artillery. In late 1648 the newly elected king John Casimir Vaza who gave up plans for the war with Ottomans advised him to return to the Netherlands and publish his studies there. In 1649 Siemienowicz decided to work on his book and publish it in Amsterdam.
Siemienowicz condemned the use of poison gas or any poisoned globules as immoral. He would not introduce “any poison whatsoever, besides which, they shall never employ them for the ruin and destruction of men, because the first inventors of our art thought such actions as unjust among themselves as unworthy of a man of heart and a real soldier .” However, in a historically early instance of biowarfare, Siemienowicz ordered the firing of artillery containing the saliva of rabid dogs during a 1650 battle. He made an educated guess about the disease's communicability that was not confirmed until hundred years later.
The inventions of general Siemionowicz were used in many battles such as the Battle of Chocim on November 11, 1673, where the forces of the Commonwealth defeated the Ottoman army
When in1650 Siemienowicz published his pioneering book, Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima (Great Art of Artillery, the First Part). The title implies a second part, and it is rumored that he wrote its manuscript before his death. It is possible that he was murdered in Holland by members of the guild of metallurgy/gunsmith/pyrotechnics, who were opposed to him publishing a book about their secrets, and that they destroyed the manuscript of the second part of his book. Siemienowicz ridiculed what he saw as a culture of secrecy based on alchemist’s ethics of the times when they “arrogantly took upon them to be Professors of so noble and excellent an art as Chemistry.”
Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima was first printed in Amsterdam in 1650,. It was translated into French in 1651, German in 1676, English and Dutch in 1729 and Polish as late as in 1963. The reason for the late date of the Polish translation resided in the fact that the masses of Polish noble citizens were fluent in Latin. The mystery of the murder of General Kazimierz Ostoja Siemionowicz in 1651 never was solved.
Siemionowicz promised in the first part of his work that the second one would contain “the universal pyrotechnic invention, and would contain all of our current knowledge.” According to his short description, this invention was supposed to greatly ease all measurements and calculations - possibly his version of a slide rule, which was first discussed by English astronomer Edmund Gunter in 1620. Gunter drew a 2 foot long line with the whole numbers spaced at intervals proportionate to their respective log values.
For over two centuries the book on rocket science written and published by Kazimierz Siemionowicz was used in Europe as a basic artillery manual. The book provided the standard designs for creating rockets, fireballs and other pyrotechnic devices. It discussed for the first time the idea of applying a reactive technique to artillery. It contains a large chapter on caliber, construction, production and properties of rockets (for both military and civil purposes), including multistage and multiple warhead rockets, batteries of rockets, and rockets with fins or delta wing stabilizers.
General Siemionowicz made great and original contribution to rocket technology. Instead of the long stabilizing rods used first by the Chinese inventors of rockets by the end of the IX cebtury, who later used them in service of the Mongol Empire during the invasion of Poland in 1241 in the siege of Legnica. The memory of this incendiary rockets is preserved in a painting hanging over the altar. A copy of this painting illustrates the use of incendiary rockets as well as a copy of his pioneering book, Artis Magnae Artilleriae pars prima (Great Art of Artillery, the First Part) are exhibited in Houston in N.A.S.A. Space Museum.