Faculty of Electrical Engineering

Interview with Professor Tadeusz Kaczorek. An outstanding scientist and a great personality.

05-05-2022
Prof. Tadeusz Kaczorek90 years ago Prof. Tadeusz Kaczorek – an outstanding ambassador of Polish science – was born. Scientific authority on an international scale. Full member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. For many years the Chairman of the Central Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles. Described by many as the “conscience of Polish science”. Author of many pioneering books on control theory, which have brought him worldwide recognition. Doctor honoris causa of 13 universities. He received this honourable title at Bialystok University of Technology as the first in the history of the University. Scientist, lecturer, professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of Białystok University of Technology. Mentor of several generations of young scientists.

 

„But trample not the altars of the past!
Although you shall much finer domes erect.
The holy flames upon the stones still last,
And human love lives there and guards them fast,
And them you owe respect!”

Adam Asnyk ‘To the Young’, translated by Jarek Zawadzki

 

On 6 May 2022, Bialystok University of Technology will celebrate the Jubilee of Professor Tadeusz Kaczorek. This is not only a celebration of an outstanding scientist, but above all a man of great depth.

In a conversation with us, he shared what is of greatest value in his life.

‘I would like to emphasise my gratitude to those to whom I owe a great deal. This is my moral duty, as I am a certain link in the relay. Of course, as it happens in life, there have been some very difficult days, but overall I can say that fate has been kind to me. Therefore, I try to be grateful simply and to pass on the principles of serving others. This is, in a way, my life programme.’ – Professor Tadeusz Kaczorek.

Professor, where did your fascination with science come from?

Prof. Tadeusz Kaczorek: ‘This is a very difficult question. As a young man, I was driven by emotions and intentions rather than a well-thought-out strategy. My family home, the principles instilled in me as a child and my later experiences certainly had a huge influence on my life.
I am a person of the older generation. I was born in 1932, tomorrow is my 90th birthday. This jubilee makes me reminisce a lot. I think of my family home with particular affection and emotion. I had an extremely loving family in which everyone supported each other. I was the youngest, the sixth child. My mother remains in my memory as an extremely sensitive person. She was demanding, but at the same time she raised me with extraordinary kindness. I apologise for not answering the question, but I cannot say where my fascination with science came from. When I was a young boy, I never even imagined that I would be interested in technical science, mathematics or control theory. I was passionate about many things, including writing poetry. I didn’t have any particular aptitude for science, but I made up for it with diligence. I was a good student. The centre of my interests was Polish philology and history. I have to admit that the area of interest that later engulfed me was not one of my favourites at first. Fortunately, a student from the University of Toruń started teaching us mathematics before matura exam, and I passed the final exam in this subject with a five.
I must add that the early years of my youth were in specific times. My generation suffered greatly from this. I attended primary school for a total of – instead of seven years – eight months. I attended a German school for several months and was prepared for adoption by German families. Children were then used for political purposes. The year 1940 was particularly memorable for me: we were told to celebrate Hitler’s birthday. Today I cannot explain where such resistance came from in a child, but I protested. I don’t think I was aware of what I was doing and what the consequences might be. I was only an eight-year-old boy. Punishment, however, was inevitable. I was severely beaten, also by the Gestapo, which caused permanent damage to my health. It was a very difficult period in my life.’

Despite such unfavourable times, you managed to achieve so much. How did this happen?

T.K.: ‘After graduating from a secondary school I found myself at Warsaw University of Technology. As the only student at the faculty, I did not belong to the Union of Polish Youth. I was given a condition – I would get a scholarship and a place in a student hall of residence if I joined the Union of Polish Youth (ZMP). My financial situation was therefore extremely difficult. In my first year at university, I earned money by manual labour. On Saturday nights I used to unload a wagon of coal at the Warszawa Zachodnia railway station. I was very proud of myself because trying to overcome these difficulties gave me great satisfaction.
I remember my studies as a busy time. I studied very diligently. My efforts were rewarded in my third year when I was asked to teach first-year students as a deputy assistant. That was April 1954. And later on my path I met many wonderful people. First and foremost, I would like to mention Professor Cholewicki, who was the supervisor of my doctoral thesis, but also supported me on other levels. He even offered to finance the purchase of a flat, which did not happen in the end because my sisters organised a family ‘fundraiser’ and paid the first instalment for my accommodation. He was a truly remarkable man and played a huge role in my life. Not only did he show me a lot of affection, but above all he believed in me. Thanks to this, I was able to develop and, as a result, I became the first scholarship holder of the Polish Academy of Sciences. I was promoted very quickly. I also completed my doctorate relatively quickly, which was quite an achievement in those days. For it was the first doctorate at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of Warsaw University of Technology. Thanks to professor’s support, I was soon the youngest postdoctoral researcher and, in technical sciences, a professor. I owe him a great deal, including my belief in other people, in their nobility.
I can safely say that I was lucky in terms of people. On my path I also met Professor Janusz Groszkowski, who took special care of me and appreciated my first scientific papers, which I wrote when I was still a student. On the occasion of my jubilee, I would like to pay tribute to these people who taught me that it is worthwhile to be a good person.’

You have been associated with Warsaw University of Technology, but also with Bialystok University of Technology for many years. Please tell us how your cooperation with our University began.

T.K.: ‘Around 2001, Professor Mikołaj Busłowicz, who was then the Vice-Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Bialystok University of Technology, came to see me. I was the supervisor of his thesis, doctoral thesis and habilitation thesis. Professor Mikołaj Busłowicz convinced me that I was more needed in Białystok than in Warsaw. I gave in to his persuasion and agreed to work here.
I have to admit that the professor did everything to make sure I had the best possible conditions. I was given a two-room flat in the Assistants’ Hostel. Every time I travelled to Białystok, despite my protests, Professor always waited for me on the platform. I would like to emphasise that for me he was not only exceptionally talented, but above all an exceptional man who did a great deal for this University.

Several generations of automation and electrical engineers have ‘grown up’ on your books. You have also promoted many outstanding scientists. What is the significance of your research and teaching activities for you?

T.K.: ‘At Bialystok University of Technology, I met many talented people who valued the knowledge they gained during their studies. I derived great satisfaction from helping them, especially those who were in a worse financial situation. For some, nature gave them talent but forgot the right conditions for development. I tried to persuade them to take up not only first-cycle engineering studies but also second-cycle. As I mentioned, I am a link in the chain of people of good will and it is my moral imperative to support talented people. In my view, it is important to provide them with opportunities for advancement, but also to nurture relationships and a good atmosphere.
Bialystok University of Technology can boast excellent young people. Together with the Dean, we see the need to get to know them better. I would like to invite those who get at least good grades in maths and physics after their first year to a coffee. This would be an opportunity to convince them that it is worthwhile to study well and have job satisfaction. The work of a university teacher has many attractions. I myself have been able to visit all the continents of the world thanks to it.
What keeps me going and values me internally is the fact that I can still do something useful.
Above all, I can encourage young people to believe in themselves – that’s where I see my role.’

You are the author of more than 1,300 publications. What is the recipe for such a huge amount of scientific activity?

T.K.: ‘It never occurred to me to break any records. Despite my advanced age, I continue to publish, although less and less. I write about 20 articles a year and at least one monograph in English – Springer publishing recently published one of them.
Age takes its toll, but I still have ideas and plenty of topics. As a rule, we develop them together with colleagues, that way I involve these people in the scientific work. I hope that heaven will allow me to live to see at least two or three more titular professors. They already have a really large body of work to their credit, which also gives me great satisfaction.’

Tell us how the topics for your next research work are born?

T.K.: ‘Ideas come unexpectedly. You have to let nature take its course. You don’t come up with anything by force. I used to ask myself a lot of questions that I hadn’t been able to answer for years. Then, suddenly, there was an enlightenment. Often certain research problems come to me at night when I am sleeping. Interestingly, I have a certain dream that often repeats itself. Namely – I’m giving a lecture, I meet different people and then issues arise that I don’t know how to answer. When I wake up, however, I come to the conclusion that the dream made sense. This just proves that the workings of our brain are still a mystery.
Of course, the individual approach also makes a huge difference. I am indeed passionate, but in my case – scientific work and ideas are governed by very strange laws. I am brought up in a deeply religious family and sometimes I pray that God will allow me to understand and prove a theory. And sometimes that happens. Then something opens up to me.’

On 6 May you will celebrate your Jubilee. What has been your motto throughout your scientific career?

T.K.: ‘There’s no doubt that being 90 years old encourages a certain amount of reflection. Today I am examining my conscience and I can honestly say that I would have changed many things, I would have acted differently. I was never motivated by a desire to do someone harm. I was driven by kindness towards others. This helps a lot in life, because people can sense the openness of others. I myself have experienced it many times, and that from complete strangers, random people. Trust and a certain gift for judging people are also important. Because talent is one thing, but a person is also their work, attitude, ethics and the whole process of upbringing. This is a great mystery. I believe that the great responsibility in this area lies with the parents who shape their own child. My parents lived together for more than 75 years. When my mother entered the room, my father, even though he was over 90 years old, always stood up. She would kiss him and tell him he didn’t have to do it, but he wanted to show his respect and love to his children and grandchildren. And I remember that scene. It’s something I took away as a huge value. These are the principles I have tried to follow.

It is worth being good. This is my credo in life. I live to help people and to convince them how important it is to serve others, because it gives joy and meaning to life.’

Thank you for this interview, Professor, and I wish you a wonderful Jubilee.

 

prof. Tadeusz Kaczorek Politechnika Białostocka

Prof. Tadeusz Kaczorek, Dsc, PhD, Eng. is a world-renowned scientist in the field of automation and electrical engineering.

He was born on 27.04.1932. He graduated from Warsaw University of Technology (1956). He was awarded the titles of associate professor in 1971 and full professor in 1974. He worked as a research and teaching staff member at Warsaw University of Technology in 1954-2002. He was Head of the Department of Fundamentals of Electronics and Automatics, Head of the Control Division at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and Dean of this Faculty. In 1970-1973, he was Vice-Chancellor of Warsaw University of Technology. He was Director of the Scientific Station of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Rome (1988-1991). In 1986 he was elected correspondent member of the Polish Academy of Sciences and since 1998 he has been its full member. From 1996 he was a member of the Central Commission for Degrees and Titles, and from 2011 to 2013 he was chairman of this commission. Since 2003 he has been a professor at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering of Białystok University of Technology.

Prof. Tadeusz Kaczorek’s scientific activity concerns issues of automation and electrical engineering, with particular emphasis on control theory and theory of dynamic systems. He is a pioneer of research in the field of discrete dynamical systems with many independent variables, singular systems and systems with fractional order derivatives, as well as the so-called positive dynamical systems, for which he presented an original, unified theoretical approach. The results of his work were published by Springer-Verlag in 1985 and 2002, gaining worldwide recognition. Prof. Kaczorek’s scientific output includes more than 1300 publications, including articles, books and monographs published in the most prestigious foreign publishing houses. He has supervised dozens of PhD students and reviewed many dissertations, habilitation theses and motions for granting a title of professor. A number of professors have come from his research school, some of whom are working in the USA and the UK. He has travelled dozens of times at the invitation of renowned universities from Japan, the USA, Canada, India, Australia, England, France, Italy, Norway, West Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Greece, lecturing as a visiting professor.

He is a member of numerous international scientific committees and has organised and chaired scientific sessions of world congresses. He is a member of the editorial board of, among others, the International Journal Multidimensional Systems and Signal Processing, Foundations of Computing and Decision Sciences. He was editor-in-chief (currently honorary editor-in-chief) of the quarterly Bulletin of the Polish Academy of Sciences – Technical Sciences.

He has been awarded, among others, the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta. He has received honorary doctorates from 13 Polish universities.

The Interview by Magdalena Grzęda-Zajkowska.


× Our website service uses cookies to work correctly. For details, see our privacy policy.
I agree to the privacy policy and cookie policy.