Ignacy Domeyko aka Ignacy Domejko was a world-renowned scientist and educator. Born to a wealthy ethnic Polish family in a large empire, Ignacy spoke several languages and struggled to develop and understand his own identity. Starting his education early, this bright student showed his aptitude and graduated with honors. After a year of imprisonment for supporting an armed rebellion, he entered into self-exile abroad. Completing his higher education in Europe, he was then hired to teach at a university in South America. Traveling to a new continent, Domeyko became a life-long passionate supporter of the region's culture and history. He soon became a respected expert on a wide variety of academic subjects, and was asked by the government to reform the country's entire educational system. The renowned educator implemented modern standards throughout the continent. While pursuing his research and studies, Ignacy traveled widely throughout the region, and later made extensive contributions to anthropology and ethnography. The fair minded educationist was widely respected for his erudition and impartiality, and was regularly consulted to negotiate commercial disputes. Because of his ethnicity, conditions of birth, and long exile, Ignacy Domeyko is claimed as part of four countries' heritage. He is hailed worldwide for his contributions to science and knowledge, and is the eponymous benefactor to flora and fauna species, stamps, coins, objects in space, schools, and natural landmarks
Childhood & Early Life
Ignacy Domeyko was born on July 31, 1802 in Nesvizh, Minsk Governorate in the Russian Empire. He grew up in a large manor house. Both of his parents were of Polish ethnicity. His mother was Karolina Domeyko nee Ancut.
Ignacy's father was Anatoli Hipolit Domeyko, who served as president of the local land court. He died when Ignacy was just seven years old. He was then raised by his uncles. At age 8, the young lad enrolled in school in Szcsucin.
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He enrolled in the ‘Imperial University of Vilna’ in 1816, for pursuing higher education. He studied mathematics and physics.
In 1819, Domeyko joined a secret organization ‘Philomaths’, that promoted Polish culture and independence. The group read a lot of literature.
Three years later in 1822, he successfully received a Master's degree in Philosophy. He was proud of this accomplishment.
In 1823, the secret organization was discovered and its members put on trial. The young nationalist was convicted and imprisoned at a local monastery. A year later he was released on house arrest. He then went on to work on his uncle's estate.
In 1830, he joined an armed rebellion against Russia. As a result, he was sent into exile in France the following year.
In 1832, he enrolled at the ‘School of Mining’ in Paris, France. A meritorious student, Ignacy enjoyed his classes.
He graduated with a degree in engineering in 1837. He was then hired for a mining job in Bonne Fontaine, France.
In 1838, Domeyko emigrated to Chile after he was hired as a professor at a mining college named ‘Coquimbo’ in La Serena, Chile. He also began working as a meteorologist and ethnographer.
In 1844, he traveled for several months in the region of Auracania. The following year, he published a book 'Auracania and its inhabitants' about the region. It was widely read and appreciated.
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In 1846, he resigned from his position as professor. He then moved to Valparaiso.
The following year, in 1847, he was hired to be a professor at the University of Chile in Santiago. The government then hired him to reform the entire educational system in Chile.
In 1849, Domeyko was granted Chilean citizenship. Nonetheless, he proclaimed in an interview that he would identify himself as a Polish Lithuanian for the rest of his life.
In 1852, the educator’s German-inspired reforms of the educational system in Chile were implemented. The nation was very grateful.
In 1867, he was promoted to rector of the school. He would hold this position for the next 16 years.
In 1884, Ignacy returned to his homeland. He then went on a tour of Berlin, Paris, Rome and Naples. The following year, he moved to his daughter's estate in Zyburtowszczyzna. He then tried to recuperate his health.
In 1888, an ailing Domeyko returned to Santiago, Chile.
Major WorksDomeyko wrote over 500 scientific reports, crafted the curriculum of several engineering schools, founded several school faculties and wrote dozens of textbooks. For his contributions to science, he was declared a citizen of the world by the United Nations in 2002.
In 2007, Domeyko's bust appeared on the 10 Zlotych coin in Poland. Domeyko is credited with bringing the metric system to South America. Because of his fairness in arbitrating mining disputes, he was known as "Domeyko the Incorruptible”.
Personal Life & Legacy
Domeyko married Enriqueta Sotomayor y Guzman in 1850. Together they had four children: Anna, Henryk, Hernan and Kazimierz. One of his sons became a Catholic priest and one of his grandsons is a monk.
On January 23, 1889, this famous scientist and ethnographer died in Santiago de Chile, Chile. He was given a state funeral.
A mineral, a species of shellfish, an ammonite, a flower, a fox, a mountain, a port, an asteroid, two towns and a mountain range are all named for Domeyko.
On the 200th anniversary of his death, UNESCO declared 2009 as "Ignacy Domeyko Year", in recognition of his contribution to science and humanity.
In 2015, a mountain climber from Belarus placed a memorial plate in recognition of this famous scientist in the Cordillera Domeyko in Chile. A special plaque is now mounted above the entrance of the monastery in Poland where this eminent meteorologist was once held prisoner.
Both Chile and Poland have issued postage stamps in recognition of this eminent educator. A large statue of this famous ethnographer currently stands in front of the University of Chile in Santiago, the University of La Serena and the School of Mines in Paris, France