Academic Vilnius (Part II)

Culture of Theses of the Old University

Since 1634, for a dozen years, mathematician Oswald Krüger (circa 1598–1665) delivered lectures on mathematics at Vilnius University’s Faculty of Philosophy. This Jesuit, who had previously studied in Vilnius and Rome, is the first known lecturer of astronomy at Vilnius University.

ARITHMETICA PRACTICA [...]. From collection of Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (1635) by Oswald KrügerVilnius University Library

Spread of Arithmetica practica, a textbook on arithmetic, published in Vilnius in 1635 and attributed to Oswald Krüger. A textbook from the collection of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences.

Krüger was known for his exceptionally wide area of scholarly interests. He taught mathematics while employing the knowledge of physics, optics, mechanics and astronomy, and he applied practical geometry in the fields of gnomonics, artillery and fortification, as well as the preparation of calendars. The mathematician gladly agreed with Mikołaj Kopernik’s ideas, suggested that his findings were a wonderful discovery and even taught students his heliocentric model despite the official ban of its promotion. 

Arithmetic lesson (1577)Vilnius University Library

Another exceptional feature of Oswald Krüger’s activities and, assumedly, his personality was his ability to single out the most promising students.

Krüger taught Jan Rudomina-Dusiatski and Albert Dyblinski, the authors of the earliest books on astronomy ever published at Vilnius University.

Thesis on Mathematics (17th c.) (1633)Vilnius University Library



Under Krüger’s leadership, Jan Rudomina-Dusiatski (1615–1651) discussed in his thesis various mathematical problems and gave an overview on the problems of geodesy and military engineering.  

Thesis on Mathematics. Chapter on optics (17th c.), 1633, From the collection of: Vilnius University Library
Thesis on Mathematics. Chapter on ballistics (17th c.), 1633, From the collection of: Vilnius University Library
Thesis on Mathematics. Chapter on astronomy (17th c.), 1633, From the collection of: Vilnius University Library
Show lessRead more

Thesis on Mathematics. Fortification scheme (17th c.) (1633)Vilnius University Library

In the winter of 1632–1633, Oswald Krüger, together with his students, observed Mercury, Venus as well as four satellites of Jupiter in Vilnius with the telescope acquired by the University. Rudomina-Dusiatski writes in his thesis about the observations of, as he says, “my Professor” that were carried out with the new instrument – perspectium aut tubum opticum moderni nominant – a ‘perspective’ or an optic tube that enables observing distant objects and helps to see them as clearly as if they were very close to you.

Thesis on Mathematics (17th c.) (1633)Vilnius University Library

In the winter of 2022–2023, 390 years will have passed since the first observations of the sky carried out with a telescope in Vilnius.

Centuria Astronomica (A Hundred of Astronomy) (1639), written by another student of Krüger, Albert Dyblinski, consists of one hundred questions and answers. The author of the thesis draws upon medieval astronomy which, at the time, had solid reputation in the field of science; however, criticism can be detected in several parts of the thesis. While writing Centuria Astronomica, Dyblinski referred to the ideas of the eminent authors of the time. As in the thesis by Jan Rudomina-Dusiatski, Dyblinski’s Centuria mentions Mikołaj Kopernik with high regard.

Centuria Astronomica (1639)Vilnius University Library

A Hundred of Astronomy. Lunar and solar eclipses (1639)Vilnius University Library

A Hundred on Astronomy. Eclipses (1639)Vilnius University Library

Observatory Courtyard (2019)Vilnius University Library

A little more than a century after Oswald Kruger’s telescope observations, the construction of Vilnius University Observatory started. At present, the oldest courtyard of the University is called the Observatory Courtyard.

Thesis on Canon Law (17th c.) (1647)Vilnius University Library

In 1641, Władysław Vasa granted the University the privilege to establish the Faculty of Law whose patron was secretary to the King, Marshal of the Lithuanian Court Kazimierz Leon Sapieha (1609–1656).

In honour of the patron, the faculty bore the title Schola Sapiehana.

The faculty of both laws – civil and ecclesiastical – started its activities in 1644. Kazimierz Leon Sapieha donated many books on law to the new faculty from the large collection of books owned by the Sapieha family. Eventually, the entire book collection of the Sapieha family went to the library of Vilnius Academy.

Bibliotheca Sapiehana (1615)Vilnius University Library

Bibliotheca Sapiehana (1585)Vilnius University Library

"Donated to professors of law of Vilnius Jesuit College in 1645 by the grace of His Excellency Kazimierz Leon Sapieha, Vice-Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania."

Eminent savants of law were invited to teach at the new Schola Sapiehana. The first professors of law who came to Vilnius were secular men Johann Georg Schauer and Simon Dilger from Ingolstadt.

The city and the University held a festive welcome to the new academics. Welcome speeches were delivered in streets, a Holy Mass was celebrated in the Church of Saint Jones and a festive dinner was offered to participants of the festivity.

The former gate – the entrance to the college that was used as late as in the eighteenth century – can be seen in the present-day Universiteto Street.

The third secular professor Aleksander Aaron Olizarowski (circa 1618–1659), a citizen of Kyiv, an ex-Jesuit and a high-level scholar of law, came to Vilnius in around 1646. Although Olizarowski had left the Society of Jesus, he still maintained good relationships with the Jesuits, as, at their and his patron Kazimierz Leon Sapieha’s request, Aleksander Aaron Olizarowski came to teach to Vilnius.

On the Political Union of People (1651)Vilnius University Library

In his book published in 1651 On the Political Union of People, Olizarowski raised the issue of peasants’ freedom and demanded equal rights for everyone living in the country.

Aleksander Aaron Olizarowski taught students to rely not solely on the authors from Antiquity, but also to support their arguments with the Lithuanian legal acts.

Thesis on Canon law (17th c.), 1647, From the collection of: Vilnius University Library
Show lessRead more

In his thesis Decisions on Canon Law Disputes (1647), Józef Konstantynowicz, a student of Olizarowski and a listener of the course on both laws, suggested discussing controversial cases which arise while examining marital issues in accordance with the Lithuanian law.

Thesis on Canon law (17th c.) (1647)Vilnius University Library

He signed his dedication to the founder of the Faculty of Law, patron, Vice-Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Kazimierz Leon Sapieha as the Most Devoted Customer of all Your Most Illustrious Excellency’s retinue Józef Konstantynowicz.

Portrait of student (1675) by Олександр ТарасевічVilnius University Library

It is believed that the student himself is depicted in the frontispiece of the thesis (published in 1675) written by a listener of metaphysics at Vilnius University and the Pantler of Samogitia Teodor Bilewicz.

The nobleman hands his thesis over to his patron St. John the Baptist not only as a plea for intercession but also as a sign that the thesis has been written in line with Christian values. 

Although Jesuits and members of other religious orders were also studying in the Academy, the majority of students were laymen. Inscriptions in the book registering the award of scientific degrees Laurae Academicae bear witness to their descent from the nobility: GD – Generosus dominus – noble sir, or MD – Magnificus dominus – honourable sir. The least sizable part of the students was offspring of urban and peasant families. It is thought that it was beside their names that the abbreviation D – Dominus – sir would be inscribed in Laurae Academicae.

Laureae Academicae (between 1650 and 1781)Vilnius University Library

The Academy was open to young people from abroad. Youngsters from Poland, Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Dalmatia, Hungary, Bavaria, Saxony, Swabia, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, Livonia, Prussia, Italy and other countries were studying here.

After the graduation, classmates, as a rule, would congratulate one another, while solemn greetings in verse were being written not only for the rulers or for noble patrons. On 9 October 1605, distinguished and noble Prussian youngsters Motiejus Nėvė and Frydrich Kostka received congratulations from their friends and fellow students from the papal seminary. The assembled students published a selection of congratulatory verses.

Wreath of Laurels. Title page, 1605, From the collection of: Vilnius University Library
Wreath of Laurels. Obelisk, 1605, From the collection of: Vilnius University Library
Show lessRead more

A Wreath of Laurels. Printed by Tomasz Lewicki. The cover and the last page of the selection bear An Obelisk – congratulations to the noble sir Frydrich Kostka – created by the Lithuanian Joannes Roncius.

Eleven friends congratulated their fellow students who had successfully defended their Master’s theses in philosophy. Each author of the versed works indicated his nationality: Swede Erik Aksenberg, Norwegian Lauren Stangius, Livonian Ottho Podwinski, Pole Jan Bialkowski, Lithuanian Joannes Roncius, while Albertus Hoscilo identified himself as a citizen of Vilnius – Vilnen.

Wreath of Laurels (1605)Vilnius University Library

He gave to his poem the title Laurel is Better than Gold, in which he depicted goddess Pallas protecting ‘Lithuanian Athens’, that is, Vilnius.

It is known that, on 16 May 1673, Vilnius Chapter allocated ten golden coins to the academic Hieronim Gierkiewicz for the printing of a philosophy thesis. A few days later, the thesis was hung on the wall of the Chapter. It is known that Vilnius Chapter sponsored other students as well. However, we cannot look through the pages of their works. In some cases, copies of the theses mentioned in documents, bibliographies or researchers’ texts have not been found so far. These are the so-called missing pages – theses and works that have not reached the present day; therefore, it might be that we will never know what ideas were presented in them. However, we hope that the storages of libraries – which might be called infinite – will present us with some new discoveries someday. 

Collection of Theses of Old Vilnius University (2023)Vilnius University Library

The final papers that were printed at the old Vilnius University are unique sources of the past containing information about the European and Lithuanian science and culture. Graduation theses of students bear witness to a long-term phase of the past that gave birth to the modern paradigms of science and cultural values and laid down the foundation to their development.

During the research project which has been carried out in the Library in 2021–2023, a thorough search and analysis of documents helped to identify 62 printings. From now on, Graduation Papers of the Old Vilnius University (1579–1773) are available through the Digital Collections.

This virtual story Academic Vilnius: Culture of Theses of the Old University is a part of the research project The Research of the Old Vilnius University’s (1579–1773) Dissertations and the Creation of a Database. The project was funded by the Research Council of Lithuania (LMTLT) under the Lithuanian Studies and Dissemination Programme (2016–2024), agreement No. S-LIP-21-17.

Closing formula, 1640, From the collection of: Vilnius University Library
Show lessRead more

Academic Vilnius is a two-part story. The first part >>

Credits: Story

Research authors: Ina Kažuro, Nijolė Klingaitė-Dasevičienė, Brigita Zorkienė.

Creators and contributors: Gediminas Bernotas, Donatas Jarutis, Raimondas Malaiška, Marija Šaboršinaitė.

We are grateful to our colleagues Evaldas Grigonis and Aušra Rinkūnaitė for their insight and advice.

Translator Kristina Gudavičienė. Language editor (Lithuanian) Dalia Blažinskaitė. Language editor (English) Armandas Rumšas. 
We thank the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences for the image of the arithmetic textbook Arithmetica practica (Vilnius, 1635) by Oswald Krüger.


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Google apps