Jan Brożek / Joannes Broscius
Mathematician, Historian of Science, University Professor and Benefactor

Brożek was born on November 1, 1585 in the small town of Kurzelow, located some 60 miles north of Krakow. His father, Jakób (1542-1608) has a small possession and was sufficiently educated to teach his son not only reading and writing but also surveying and basic geometry. Upon completing elementary school, Brożek begun to study at the University of Kraków (later renamed Jagiellonian) under the direction of well known astronomers-astrologers and mathematicians who were also physicians: Jakobejusz, Brożek's compatriot, and Fontana. It should be noted these were among the then not numerous adherents of Copernicus' heliocentric theory. It was therefore surely under their influence that Brożek focused his attention on Copernicus' life, activities and achievements. This resulted a dozen years later in his undertaking a journey to Warmia in the footsteps of the great astronomer. In 1605 he received his baccalaureate and five years later, in March 1610 the degree of Master of the Liberal Arts and Doctor of Philosophy. Upon receiving the baccalaureate he commenced to teach, first arithmetic using the Algorismus text of Peurbach, then he glossed Clavius's accounting text, and finally astronomy according to John de Sacrobosco.

In the years 1611-12 he was in active contact with van Roomen, a mathematician from Louvain who visited Kraków on the way to Zamość. As a result of these contacts he became convinced of the importance of geometry and, perhaps above all, of the usefulness of using letters as symbols for unknowns in algebraic equations. From the notes Brożek made of his interaction with Roomen, it is clear he became convinced of the need for becoming thoroughly conversant with geometric works of the ancients.

The years 1610-14 in Brożek's life are connected with the Academy where he gave lectures, but this was not his only activity, exhibiting a klaidoscopic restlessness. In March of 1610 he accepted the lower Holy Orders. In 1614 he was appointed to the Collegium Minorem and in 1618 he undertook the above mentioned trip to Toruń, Gdańsk, Warmia and Royal Prussia visiting locations connected with Copernicus and seeking his artifacts. It it should be said that he appreciated Copernicus' theory and, though in his lectures his still adhered - perhaps one could say at least formally - to the then traditionally accepted Ptolemaic system, he was given to considering the evidence upon which the new theory was based. He was well aware of its thoroughly nature. Concurrently he functioned as a historian of science and its great innovator.

In 1619 he entered the Collegium Maius and next year he departed for Italy, stopping on the way in Innsbruck where he met Christopher Scheiner (1573-1650). From June 1620 he studied medicine in Padua and on his return to Poland he became for a year he attending functioned to Marcin Szyszkowski, Bishop of Kraków. In 1625 he returned to the Karkow Academy and became very involved in the conflict of the University with the Jesuits. In the course of this he showed himself to be a sharp and persistent polemicists. He received the canonicated of St. Anne and entered the priesthood, accepting High Holy Orders and obtaining a Baccalaureate in Theology and various ecclesiastical appointments. In the years 1631-1638 he was the curator of the library of the Collegium Maius which he enlarged by focused purchases and by obtaining donations. As a parting gift he donated his own book collection, numbering over 2000 volumes which the outcome of intesive book purchasing activity was indeed excellent. Regarding Brożek's love for books Henryk Barycz wrote in 1956 that
Collecting of books was for Brożek a confirmation of the maxim "Vende pallium, eme librum" (Sell the coat but buy the book). Indeed, very early on while still a student and later a modest teacher, Brożek began to make his first book purchases from his meager savings. He realized full well the worth of books and could tell apart really good material from pulp. Characteristically and somewhat symbolically, in 1606 he obrained as one of his earliest purchases, a second 1566 edition of Copernicus's "De Revolutionibus."
Brożek's library contained books by well know and important authors, in addition to three editions (1543, 1566, 1617) of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus, there were works by Galileo, Kepler, Cartesius, Markator, Neper, Retyka, de Sacro Bosco, as well as the afore mentioned Roomen and Scheiner, received from the two authors as gifts.

In the years 1639 - 1648 he resided in Miedzyrzecz in the west part of Poland where he was made the parish priest. In connection with this departure, for reasons for which remain unknow, he resigned from his Professorship at the Academy and his position as the priest of St. Florian. When he returned in 1648, he presented a philosophical dissertation which he defende on March 2 and two years later the cermonial advancement to the title of Doctor took place on 22 April 1650. Before this, however, he had encountered the unpleasantness of being denied readmission to the Collegium Maius, an opposition he overcame with a so persuasive a plea that he was readmitted on March 8, 1649.

In the early months of 1652 Kraków was visited by an epidemic which caused the suspension of classes in May and led the members of the Academy to leave Kraków, grouping themselves around Zygmunt Gregorowicz who had been elected Rector of the Academy in April. In late June, Gregorowicz was carried away by the epidemic and the University, assembled in Bronowice, a village some miles from Kraków, had ceased all other activity, chose Brożek as Rector. He did not for long enjoy the elevation to the highest academic position for in November of 1652 the epidemic carried him off also.

The above text is a partial translation by Peter K. Gessner of a Polish language article of the same title by Andrzej Pelczar