PROF. KRZYSZTOF POMIAN – FNP PRIZE LAUREATE 2017
Prof. Krzysztof Pomian from CNRS in Paris and Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń has received the Foundation for Polish Science Prize 2017 in the humanities and social sciences for pioneering research on the history of collecting and the influence of science and art on the development of European culture.
Born in Warsaw in 1934, Krzysztof Pomian studied at the University of Warsaw, where he obtained a doctoral degree in philosophy in 1965 and later a postdoctoral degree. His teachers included Prof. Tadeusz Kotarbiński, Prof. Leszek Kołakowski and Prof. Bronisław Baczko.
He was expelled from the Polish United Workers’ Party (PZPR, the communist party) in 1966, and two years later was fired from the post of lecturer at the University of Warsaw’s Department of the History of Modern Philosophy for public criticism of Poland’s communist authorities.
He worked at the National Library for three years. In 1973 he went on a fellowship to the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, where he became a professor (directeur de recherche) in 1984. During this time he also gave lectures at schools including École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS), École du Louvre and Université de Genève. In 1999-2007 Prof. Pomian worked at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń as a humanities professor.
In 2001 he was appointed academic director of the Museum of Europe in Brussels. He is one of the founders of this institution that reminds people how the European historical and cultural community developed over more than two and a half thousand years. He became a member of the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity Advisory Committee in 2010.
Among other awards, he received a Chevalier’s Cross of the Order of the Legion of Honour in 2011 and a Commander’s Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta in 2012.
Prof. Pomian’s high standing and academic achievements reach far beyond Poland. He is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kraków, Ateneo Veneto in Venice and Accademia Clementina in Bologna. He is a member of many editorial boards, including the Paris-based journals Le Débat and Vingtième siècle: revue d’histoire, the UK’s Journal of the History of Collections, the Italian La Storiografia and the German Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte.
The Foundation for Polish Science Prize 2017 was granted in recognition of Prof. Pomian’s interdisciplinary research on the philosophy of art and the philosophy and history of European culture, with special consideration for his pioneering research on the history of collecting and on how science and the arts affected the development of European culture.
As a philosopher, Prof. Pomian focuses on problems of knowledge and learning, as a historian he studies the history of European artistic and intellectual culture, and as a museologist – the history of museums and collections. All of Professor Pomian’s major books and papers have been published by Western publishers and have been translated into some 20 languages. Today Prof. Pomian is one of the internationally best-known Polish intellectuals.
In his book Collectors and Curiosities, Prof. Pomian presents the community of collectors in the early modern period together with their collections, outlining the history of collecting and the different circumstances in which European museums were born.
In the monographs Przeszłość jako przedmiot wiary. Historia i filozofia w myśli średniowiecza [The Past as an Object of Faith. History and Philosophy of thought in the Middle Ages] and Przeszłość jako przedmiot wiedzy [The Past as an Object of Knowledge] Prof. Pomian explains changes in the way history was practised and the directions of thinking about history from the early Middle Ages to the 18th century.
In the book L’Ordre du temps he explains “chronometry, chronography, chronology and chronosophy”, showing how the measurement of time and its ordering, the description of events occurring in time, and the very understanding of time changed from antiquity to the 20th century. Published in Poland 30 years after the French original, Prof. Pomian’s work is considered to be one of the most interesting books produced in the community of the Warsaw School of Historians of Ideas.
The professor presents the history of our continent as a pluralistic community of values in the book L’Europe et ses nations. To him, Europe is a “fragment of a biography and an intellectual adventure”. In Krótka historia nierówności między ludźmi na przykładzie Europy [A Brief History of Inequality Among People on the Example of Europe] Prof. Pomian writes that “allegedly we are all equal. But inequalities strike us at every step” and leads his readers through a few thousand years of efforts made by societies to loosen hierarchy and introduce equality, at the same time showing what halted those aspirations and how abolishing some inequalities gave rise to others.
In the book Historia. Nauka wobec pamięci [History: Research vs Remembrance] Prof. Pomian shows how historiographic constructs are built and what purpose they serve.
Prof. Pomian has also authored works on the relations between philosophy and politics, including the collection of essays Filozofowie w świecie polityki [Philosophers in Politics] and Oblicza dwudziestego wieku [Facets of the 20th Century] in which he analyses the contemporary meanings of notions such as revolution, fascism, communism, totalitarianism and democracy.
Prof. Pomian collaborated with the Literary Institute and Kultura monthly in Paris from the late 1970s. This collaboration yielded many cultural events as well as publications, the most famous of these including Autobiografia na cztery ręce [Autobiography in a Duet] written with Jerzy Giedroyć.
In addition, Prof. Pomian was the author or co-author of the exhibitions Europe Is Our History (Wrocław, 2009), The Elevated (National Museum in Warsaw, 2012) and Forgiveness and Reconciliation. Cardinal Kominek: The Unknown Father of Europe (the Vatican, Berlin, Wrocław, Brussels, 2015-2017).