Władyslaw Orlicz

Professor Władysław Roman Orlicz was born on 24th May 1903 in Okocim, in the family of Franciszek and Maria Orlicz. He had two older and two younger brothers. Franciszek Orlicz early and unexpectedly orphaned his children but the mother bravely and with devotion fulfilled her parental duties and she took care of their impeccable education. In the first twenty years of the 20th century the Orliczes moved from one town to another quite often which was connected with the necessity of changing schools, but that fact did not influence Władysław's progress at school.


Professor Orlicz attended schools in Tarnów, Moravian Znaim and in Lwów where the Orlicz family settled down after the First World War. Władysław, especially in higher classes, was an exceptionally good pupil. He finished his secondary education on 10th June 1920. He graduated from the State Secondary School in Lwów with outstanding results. Afterwards he started his studies at the famous Lwów University of Technology. The engineering studies did not cause any problems to Władysław Orlicz however, they were not fascinating enough for him. 
After one year he decided to change the university and started to study mathematics at the Faculty of Philosophy at Jan Kazimierz University in Lwów, which was soon transformed into the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science.
 Between WW I and WW II Lwów was a very special city with an exceptional atmosphere which was created by outstanding scientists and artists with strong, expressive, fascinating personalities, who were an example for young people also for young mathematicians. Students of mathematics had a possibility to learn from such well-known scientists as Stefan Banach, Hugo Steinhaus, Antoni Łomnicki, Stanisław Ruziewicz, Eustachy Żyliński or Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz who gave lectures on logics and methodology of science.


Władysław Orlicz began to work in higher education very early because in 1923 he became demonstrator at the Department of Mathematics at the Faculty of Philosophy at Jan Kazimierz University. He graduated in 1926 but he had already worked as younger assistant at the First Department of Mathematics at Jan Kazimierz University since 1st August 1925.  In 1926 he published his first scientific paper on theory of additivity in Tohoku Mathematical Journal. 
In the following two years he attended lectures on mathematics at Lwów University of Technology at the General Faculty which was established there by professor Bartel. Professor Kazimierz Kuratowski was among his lecturers at this Faculty. The preparation of his doctoral thesis "On theory of orthogonal series" did not take Władysław Orlicz much time. He wrote it under the supervision of Eustachy Żyliński. He passed his doctoral exam on 30th July 1928.
 In the same year he got married to Zofia Krzysikówna, an assistant at the Department of Physics at Jan Kazimierz University. 
In the 20s professor Orlicz underwent a pretty complicated procedure of achieving qualifications for teaching mathematics and physics in secondary education because the work at the university did not give him rights to work as a teacher in secondary schools. In 1927-1929 Władysław Orlicz was additionally employed as a teacher in Private Grammar and Secondary Female School SS de Notre Dame and in 1930/31 he taught in Corps of Cadets No 1 in Lwów. At the turn of 1929 and 1930 professor Orlicz was in Göttingen, a well-known and respected German scientific centre, where he studied theoretical mechanics. This was possible thanks to a scholarship obtained from the Department of Confessions and Public Education. He met many celebrities there: E. Landau, R. Courant, H. Bohr, M. Born. This short period had a significant influence on his further research work. He established relations which lasted and bore fruit for years, e.g. with Gottfried Köthe, who was an outstanding specialist on functional analysis, a subject of the greatest scientific activity of Władysław Orlicz. He also began there, at first in cooperation with a colleague from Lwów - Wilhelm Z. Birnbaum and later on his own, research on functional spaces, called after years Orlicz spaces.
At the beginning of October 1930 Władysław Orlicz changed his workplace and became older assistant at the Second Department of Mathematics at the Faculty of Mechanics at Lwów University of Technology. Professor Antoni Łomnicki was head of this Department. He was interested in application of mathematics and he wrote numerous scientific articles on probabilistics and mathematical cartography. The young co-worker of professor Łomnicki was aware of its significance although personally he did never develop fields of applied mathematics. In later years, when he taught young scientists by himself, he always encouraged younger colleagues to carry out research on this questions. He suggested suitable topics of seminar and diploma theses. Being a member of the Committee of Mathematical Science of the Polish Academy of Sciences he supported all initiatives on application of research results in mathematics.
The career of Władysław Orlicz developed very quickly. 6 years after the conferment of the doctor's degree, on 22nd June 1934, for the paper "On researches on orthogonal systems" he obtained the degree of a reader at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science at Jan Kazimierz University. The results of his research work on orthogonal systems laid foundations for the development of this branch of analysis.
The significant and systematically enriched scientific output of Władysław Orlicz was appreciated by the authorities of both universities in Lwów. Since 1st October 1935 he was promoted to the position of lecturer at Lwów University of Technology and simultaneously he obtained the rights to lecture at Jan Kazimierz University. Two years later on 14th September 1937 he was appointed by Polish president Ignacy Mościcki to the position of extraordinary mathematics professor at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Science at Poznań University. He took this position after the death of Kazimierz Abramowicz. It was not an easy decision for Władysław Orlicz to leave Lwów and to lose personal contact with the group of outstanding mathematicians who developed functional analysis. The group was later Lwów Mathematical School.
The outbreak of the Second World War found professor Orlicz in Lwów, where he was on holidays. There was no point in returning to Poznań so he spent the tragic years of occupation in Lwów.In November 1939 he took the vacant position of lecturer at the University of Technology because of the absence of Stefan Kaczmarz. He also lectured at Jan Kazimierz University, where from 31st December 1939 to 22nd June 1941 he was professor at the Department of Mathematics. Under Nazi government he officially worked as a teacher in Public Craftsman Professional School, but secretly he also lectured students and taught pupils at secondary level.
It seems to be incredible that in August 1944 Andrzej Alexiewicz, a student of professor Orlicz, obtained the doctor's degree for the paper "On series of operators". Andrzej Alexiewicz passed his doctoral exam in front of the board consisting of professors: Nikliborc, Orlicz and Zierkhoffer. 
After the ejection of Nazi in the Summer 1944 the new Ukrainian authorities quickly reactivated the universities in Lwów and reinstated the personnel. From September 1944 to the beginning of February 1945 professor Orlicz was in charge of the Department of the Theory of Function at State Iwan Franka University in Lwów. The last war events convinced professor Orlicz that Lwów would not be within Poland's borders so he returned to Poznań on 5th May 1945, where he spent the rest of his life.
Poznań University suffered very much in result of war-activities. Didactics was a real burden for the sparse personnel collected round professor Orlicz, because it was necessary to give lectures and classes not only at the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, but also at other studies of natural science. 
Numerous administrative and didactic duties did not disturb the research work of professor Orlicz, carried out by himself and in cooperation first of all with Stanisław Mazur and Andrzej Alexiewicz. On 21st July 1948 the ordinary professor's degree was conferred on him.

He devoted his work first of all to Poznań University, where till Spring 1970 he was in charge of the Department of Mathematics at the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. 
He continued his wide-ranging activity after being retired at the end of the 70s. He was still engaged in research work and he published its results. He also supervised the studies of candidates for the doctor's degree. At Poznań Department of the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences he gave famous "Seminar on Selected Problems of Functional Analysis'', popularly known as "the seminar of Orlicz". The seminar enjoyed great popularity among scientific workers of universities of Western and North-western Poland.

Scientific Interests

Professor Władysław Orlicz is one of the most outstanding Polish mathematicians. He carried out his unusually active, multidirectional scientific activity for 65 years. He wrote over 170 articles and books. The results of his research, often of pioneer character, inspired and laid research foundations for the whole mathematical world and had an essential influence on development of analysis. The research work of professor Orlicz refers to many fields, e.g. unconditional convergence and functional series, Orlicz spaces, indexes of functional spaces, general theory of F-spaces and Saks spaces, theory of additivity, orthogonally additive functionals and modular spaces, polynomial operators, interpolation of operators, differential equations generic theorems, theory of measure and integral, real functions and functions with complete fluctuation.
The scientific output of professor Orlicz includes several books: e.g. 2 school-manuals which are evidence of his didactic interests. He wrote also numerous reviews on achievements of Polish mathematicians and biographical articles. Some of his speeches were published. In 1988 State Scientific Publishing House published his Collected Papers in two volumes. 
Władysław Orlicz participated in numerous important mathematical events on international level. 
He took part in Mathematical Congresses in Oslo, Edinburgh, Stockholm and Warszawa.

He was honorary chairman of the last congress. He accepted invitations for participation in foreign conferences, he visited many European colleges (especially in Germany).His fame reached far away from the old continent. He spent the Autumn of 1958 in China in Peking, Shanghai and Canton. He visited Jerusalem and Canada. In 1974 the University York in Toronto conferred on professor Orlicz the title of honorary doctor. He is also honorary doctor of Poznań University of Technology (1978) and of Adam Mickiewicz University (1983).


An impressive number of 500 master and 39 doctoral theses were written over 40 years under the supervision of Władysław Orlicz. Numerous well-known professors and also one member of Polish Academy of Science are among his students. Many of the master theses refer to practical applications.


In 1948 Professor Orlicz took up additional employment in the State Institute of Mathematics in Warsaw. It soon became Institute of Mathematics and was a part of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
The relationships of professor Orlicz with the Institute of Mathematics of the Polish Academy of Sciences lasted to the end of his life. For several years he was in charge of the Division of Functional Analysis and was a long standing member of Scientific Council and its vice-chairman.
Władysław Orlicz was granted all possible highest honours in the Academy. In 1956 he became its correspondent member and five years later its real member. Professor Orlicz was an active member of other scientific societies. He was especially engaged in the activity of Polish Mathematical Society. From 1977 to 1979 he was its president and for many years its honorary member. For 18 years he was chairman of Poznań Department of Polish Mathematical Society. For a long time he was in charge of the Third Department of Poznań Society of Friends of Science, an organization in Wielkopolska which has existed for over 150 years. He was its honorary member. Professor Orlicz was also a member of Warsaw Scientific Society and of Polish Philosophical Society.

Władysław Orlicz was very engaged in publishing work. After the Second World War he was one of the animators of reactivating "Studies Mathematica". Since 1961 he was the editor of this periodical. For over 35 years, from 1955 to 1990, he was the editor of "Commentationes Mathematicae'' - "Year's Issues of Polish Mathematical Society".


The achievements of Władysław Orlicz in scientific research, pedagogical and administrative work were often rewarded with all possible Polish and international prizes and distinctions. In 1973 he became laureate of Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation and he was decorated with the highest state distinctions: the Krzyż Komandorski Orderu Odrodzenia Polski and the Golden Cross of Merit. He was twice awarded the State Prize: 1952 of 2nd degree and 1966 of 1st degree. He was also decorated with an impressive number of medals given to him by municipal and regional authorities, organizations, institutions and societies.

Władysław Orlicz appreciated especially prizes for mathematicians. In 1948 he was awarded Stefan Banach prize of Polish Mathematical Society and in 1979 - Wacław Sierpiński Medal. In 1973 he was awarded by the Polish Academy of Sciences with Copernicus Medal
Professor Orlicz was interested not only in mathematics but also in philosophy and natural science.

He died unexpectedly in the evening on 9th August 1990 while correcting a paper accepted to be printed in "Mathematica Japonica".

Attention: The above text is a summary of an extensive biographic article "Władysław Orlicz (1903 - 1990)" written by Lech Maligranday and Witold Wnuk and published in "Mathematical Messages" (vol. 36 (2000), p. 85 - 147); summarized by professor Witold Wnuk.
Edited and translated by Lucyna Brzozowska.