22 kwi 2011

Wesołych Świąt! Happy Easter!

14 kwi 2011

Julius Fromm, condoms and the promotion of Konin

Thanks to the great event performed by Stowarzyszenie Akcja Konin many Poles (including me) found out that there was somebody like Julius Fromm. This Jewish entrepreneur was born in Konin (in the middle of today’s Poland) in 1883. His family moved to Berlin in order to look for work. Fromm became a chemist and worked on the rubber. He believed that future belongs to condoms and invented latex. Until that time condoms were very “natural” – pig or sheep guts were used for example. They were expensive and unreliable - didn’t protect from STIs and limited pleasure. So we can say that modern condoms in a way come from Poland:) Julius Fromm created a condom empire, established many manufactures and made a fortune. In Germany condoms were even called fromms.

He was naturalised in 1920 and acquired German citizenship. His life in the times of the rising Nazi’s threat was for sure very challenging. The Nazis didn’t murder him but stole all his property. He spent the WW II in London and died a few days after the liberation. More about him and his empire you can read here.

Surprisingly, in the XXI century condoms remain a taboo in Poland. You can easily buy them in a shop, gas station or pharmacy but adults still would like to protect young people from them. Condom vending machines are considered as evil. When Akcja Konin put a giant condom on the old monument in Konin many were disgusted. I love the idea! The promotion has had a great impact in the media. The grandson of Julius Fromm will come to Poland:)

The subject of sex education is very close to my heart and for sure I will write about it more. It’s not easy to live in a Catholand;)

The best condom ad is 100% not Polish, much too liberal for Poles;) On youtube of course.

7 kwi 2011

“66 - dobre, bo polskie” on tv

I’m not a fan of television but today I would like to introduce you a very funny programme about the Polish culture. “66 - dobre, bo polskie” (“66 - Good Because Polish” or “The Best Made in Poland”) reviews Polish customs, icons and products. 66 topics are commented by Polish celebrities from different fields. Smart and amusing, informative also for Poles. It’s available only in Polish, I think the Polish government should translate it and spread. If you have the Polish channel tvn style you can watch it for example on Wednesday at 18:00 or on Friday 22:15.

You can also watch the first two parts on youtube. Search “The Best Made in Poland” and download immediately because probably it will disappear soon. I also recommend to watch other tvn programmes online on VOD for example “Rozmowy w toku” or “Kuchenne rewolucje”.

1 kwi 2011

Maria Skłodowska-Curie

One of the greatest women in history, her life and achievements were extraordinary by any standards. As you can read in Wiki ”Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and she is the only woman to win the award in two different fields and only person to win the award in multiple sciences”. She was a dedicated scientist and not only created a new branch of knowledge but also made a huge step forward for women.

She was born in 1867 in Warsaw (in that time Russian Empire) and was lucky to have educated parents who educated their daughters. The family wasn’t rich so Maria had to earn money. She worked as a governess and enjoyed this profession very much. It was still time when men forced women to be interested only in marriage, family and children, but Maria and her sister Bronisława wanted to study. It wasn’t possible in Poland so they moved to Paris. Maria was the first woman who took the exams in physics and chemistry at Sorbonne and who was allowed to participate in lectures. She did a PHD and got married to Pierre Curie – also a physicist. They were a lovely couple, worked together and had 2 daughters. In 1903 they both and Henri Becquerel were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for the research of radiation. In 1906 Pierre Curie was killed in an accident. Maria lost not only a husband but also a workmate. She continued to work and became the head of the laboratory at Sorbonne after Pierre. She fell in love with a physicist - Paul Langevin. His wife revealed their affair. It was too much for the public opinion: a foreigner from the East (many people thought she was Jewish), a scientist, an atheist and a temptress! In 1911 she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering two elements: radium and polonium (named after the Latin name of Poland – Polonia). But she couldn’t pick the award, her “reputation” could cause a scandal. Through all her life she had to bear prejudices against her sex.

From 1912 until her death she was the head of the physiochemical department in the Radium Institute. Thanks to Maria the Radiological Laboratory was opened in Warsaw (today Centrum Onkologii im. Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie). The history of medicine would be completely different without radiology!

We must also remember that Maria’s daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie were also physicists involved in the study of radioactivity. They were laureates of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. Maria’s grandchildren continue the great family achievements: Hélène Langevin-Joliot is a professor of nuclear physics and Pierre Joliot is a biochemist.

2011 is the international year of chemistry and in Poland and France – of Maria Skłodowska-Curie. The Polish authorities have created a programme of celebrations but unfortunately concentrated on the academic level. There’s not much for so called normal people. If you compare it to the Chopin’s PR last year, it looks pathetic, Maria doesn’t even have an international website! I really don’t know how to explain it, I’ll give you some hints:

1) romantic Poles prefer to promote art than science
2) it’s ignorance
3) it’s pure sexism.

I’m happy that at least a company AMS organized a competition about Maria. Young artists created posters about women’s and men’s equal rights. There are many with Maria, I really recommend you to see (here)! In Warsaw near BUW there’s a new mural with our famous scientist. It should remind Poles that she was born here.

More about Maria in Polish you can read for example here. You can also listen to a few Polish Radio programs about her here. On youtube you will find many funny films like this in Polish and this in English.

Below an interesting picture from Maria's museum in Warsaw.