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The Warsaw Voice » Society » March 31, 2015
Institute of Geophysics Polish Academy of Science
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More Than 100 Years of Research
March 31, 2015   
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Prof. Roman Teisseyre, who was director of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geophysics from 1970 to 1972, talks to WitoldŻygulski.

What were the beginnings of geophysics in Poland?

Many great Polish scientists studied geophysics at the end of the 19th century. They included Maurycy Pius-Rudzki, a professor at the geophysics department of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. The department was established in 1895 as the first department of geophysics in the world. Poland’s other great geophysicist was StanisławKramsztyk, one of the first people in Europe to popularize exact sciences such as physics, astronomy and geophysics. In 1915, construction began on the first Polish magnetic observatory in ¦wider near Warsaw. In 1921, the observatory started regular measurements of the Earth’s magnetic field and later, it also started monitoring atmospheric electricity, air pollution and background gamma radiation. The facility became a geophysical observatory in 1928 and has functioned as one ever since.

The Institute of Geophysics started in 1952 as a very small establishment called the Department of Geophysics. Polish geophysics reached a milestone several years later when the 1957-1958 season was declared the International Year of Geophysics. That was when our researchers embarked on two expeditions. One took them to the island of Spitsbergen, where Polish geophysicists had worked before 1939. The other expedition, with me at the helm, went to Vietnam. The two geophysical stations that we set up in Vietnam are still there, so you could say we made a major contribution to the development of geophysics in that region.

In the early 1970s, a part of our institute became the Department of Oceanography, which later developed into an institute in its own right. It is now our partner research center whose fields of study include marine geophysics.

Geophysics is a global science and effective geophysical research requires collaboration with partners abroad. What major international programs have Polish geophysicists taken part in and what results have they achieved?

The International Year of Geophysics gave an international angle to our institute’s projects. We have since had very good contacts with countries like Japan and Italy. I frequently traveled to Japan for many years until 2000 and Japanese experts came to visit us in Poland. My junior colleague, Kacper Rafał Rybicki, traveled to Japan as well. Young, budding scientists took part in regular exchange programs, which as the years went by produced a network of international connections around the world. Prof. Adam Dziewoński, whose career began at the Department of Geophysics, settled in the United States and won international acclaim for his research into the interior of the Earth. Andrzej Kijko, who started as a seismologist at our institute, devised algorithms for statistical surveys of different kinds of earthquakes, including intraplate earthquakes. After he left Poland, he became an expert in seismic risks and threats posed by other disasters, especially those that nuclear power plants, airports, dams and other such structures are exposed to. Kijko has for years worked in South Africa and he still works with our researchers.

We were among the pioneers of research into elastic rotational stress of seismic origin. This is an innovative field of geophysical research. The studies were hard to start, but it had to be done, for a number of reasons. For many years, stress and deformations of this kind were never even taken into account in seismology. The common belief was that they hardly existed and even if there were any, they were instantly suppressed. Today, dissertations are written around the world with descriptions of such deformations, analyzing how these deformations impact seismic fields and, for example, buildings. We started measuring these deformations at the end of last century and the first international workshop in this field of research was held in 2007 in California. The fourth workshop is scheduled to take place next year in Germany.

We have also worked for many years with the Czech Republic (and Czechoslovakia before that), mainly in the area of mining geophysics. With these partners we have held international symposiums on mining geophysics and, more recently, environmental geophysics.

Our institute conducted research into the electrical resistance of soil and rocks. Part of the research took place inside a copper mine and attempts were made to incorporate the research into the mine’s risk assessment system. While conducting such research, we worked with the former Soviet republics of Russia and Georgia.

One of the greatest achievements of the Institute of Geophysics staff is the network of seismological, magnetic and geophysical observatories we have created, maintained and regularly modernized. We have made them part of the global observation and data exchange system. Important here is the ability of our researchers to establish good contacts, while our partners abroad proved happy to collaborate. These partners mainly come from Western and Northern Europe. One of the key moments in the institute’s history was the launch of the Central Geophysical Observatory in Belsk, central Poland.

Research into the deep structure of the lithosphere, which the institute mainly conducts in Europe, has been made possible by the enormous support we have received from abroad, the United States in particular. Also of key importance is the determination, imagination and perseverance of our researchers, who are headed by Prof. Aleksander Guterch.
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