History of PTPN
The Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences (Poznańskie Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk, abbr. PTPN) came to being in 1857 on the initiative of Dr. Kazimierz Szulc, teacher at the St. Mary Magdalene Grammar School, and priest Franciszek Ksawery Malinowski, a linguist and a parish priest in Komorniki. This Polish scientific society on the territory of the Prussian Partition was supposed, as intended by its originators, to be a substitute for the unexistent university in Poznań. The idea to create a scientific society was at that time supported by Count Tytus Działyński from Kórnik and August Cieszkowski from Wierzenica. Despite unwillingness of the Prussian authorities the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences started its activity even in the same year. It brought together the most prominent minds of the contemporary Grand Duchy of Poznań. The Society became an unquestionable authority, especially in the field of science and culture, becoming an integral institution in the landscape of Poznań and Great Poland.
The aims of the Society, recorded in its first statute from 1857, were expressed as follows:
§ 1. The object of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences is to promote knowledge and skills in the Polish language.
§ 2. The Society shall not engage in matters concerning the public affairs and the current national authorities.
§ 3. The Society’s activity and involvement shall be:
a) publication of treatises and scientific papers,
b) collection and publication of the written sources and material concerning Polish history, writings and Polish antiquities,
c) translation of exemplary writers,
d) reprinting of most important writings, namely, the old Polish writers, including the addition of necessary explanations and facilitation of their cheaper purchase.
The goals specified in the first statute were soon complimented with the entry regarding the collection of Polish historical artifacts and their appropriate storage. In this way, the Museum of Polish and Slavic Antiquities was established (one of the richest public museums in Polish lands; its collections, reclaimed after World War II, are stored as a deposit in the National Museum), and also the library – an indispensible tool of scholarly work. The library, created through donations, exchange and purchase of books, at the close of the 19th century had become, in the opinion of Prof. Ryszard Marciniak, „[...] the greatest library in the Prussian Partition, surpassing the Kórnik Library and Raczyński Library which were established several decades earlier”.
During World War II, when Polish higher education was eliminated, the professors of Poznań University, the majority of whom were members of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences, on the initiative of the School and Education Bureau of the Western Territories (Secret Delegacy of the Polish Government in Exile for Poland) in October 1940 founded in Warsaw a secret educational institution – the University of the Western Lands. Over time, its branches were established in Częstochowa, Kielce, Cracow, Sandomierz. Prof. Ludwik Jaxa-Bykowski (a member of PTPN since 1916) was appointed first rector of the University of the Western Lands, the second was Prof. Roman Pollak (a member of PTPN since 1920). The activity of the University was stopped by the Warsaw Uprising (1944), as a result of which it had lost almost a half of its employees.
Postwar years proved to be very difficult for the Society. Gradually, the rescued collections (plundered by the Nazis) were regained and the library was reopened, and what is more, the publishing activity of the Society was restored. Also, the organization of scientific research was relaunched. International contacts were renewed. The statute passed in 1947 brought to an end the process of academization of the corporation. The adopted rule was that the members of the Society—with full rights—could only be the persons “with great merit for research”. At that time, the Society promoted a very dynamic development of the humanistic sciences, especially history of the law, social and economic history, and also the natural sciences focusing on the study of nature of the Great Poland region.
Soon, however, the situation changed diametrically. The unification of the workers’ parties and the establishment of the Polish United Workers’ Party (Pol. abbr. PZPR) initiated organizational changes in higher education and Polish science in general. The Warsaw Scientific Society (Towarzystwo Naukowe Warszawskie), which was closed, and the Polish Academy of Learning (Polska Akademia Umiejętności) became merged into the Polish Academy of Sciences (Polska Akademia Nauk), which controlled all regional societies in Poland.
The supreme authority of the Polish Academy of Sciences had naturally limited the freedom of activity of the Society. The efforts of the statute authorities of the Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences and its members concentrated now on maintaining the existence of the corporation, protecting the fundamental scope of activity, providing at least minimal freedom for the Society. In this field especially active and successful were those members of PTPN who were at the same time the members of the Polish Academy of Sciences: the Head of the Society Zygmunt Wojciechowski (1955), Kazimierz Tymieniecki (1956-1961), Stefan Barbacki (1961-1972) or Gerard Labuda (1972-1975 i 1980/1981).
A turning point in the history of Poland, and simultaneously in the history of the Society, was the year of 1989 – the time of changes concerning the system of government. The Poznań Society of Friends of Sciences regained full freedom of activity becoming liberated from scholarly supervision.
In 2006, the Council of Poznań chose the Society for the distinction of the Honorary Award of the City of Poznań. In order to celebrate a long-lasting activity of the Society special 150th-anniversary ceremonies were organized in 2007.