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There is no shortage of travelers in the complex of Polish scientists. One such name is the character of Benedykt Dybowski, whose exile to Siberia turned out to be a life journey for him. His 12 years in the local wilderness forever changed the perception of this place and resulted in extraordinary discoveries. Meet this amazing character.

Benedykt Dybowski – naturalist, activist and rebel

He learned the passion for learning at home. His parents and brothers (later also teachers) were his first teachers. Until then, he established his first herbs and took care of aquariums. The love of nature has stood the test of time, because during his medical studies at Dorpat University he dealt with zoology, which he loved.

Already during his studies, he wrote a book called “About the Freshwater Fish of Livlandia”, which was well received by the professors. But in vain, because the same professors expelled him from the university because of the second in the fencing.

Forced travel – 12 years of hard work!

How did his adventure travel begin? The road wasn’t easy, and it certainly wasn’t the way he had originally dreamed of. He worked at the Warsaw Main School as an assistant professor, but Dybovsky at the same time led a very active social and political life, participating, among other things, in the organization of the January Uprising. This led to several months of detention, and ended with a severe punishment: 12 years of hard labor in Siberia.

For the average person, that’s reason enough to collapse and lose heart. But not Debowski. Although he dreamed of long trips, he made plans in his mind for a trip to Madagascar, where he could work as a doctor and at the same time explore the hitherto undiscovered local nature. But this did not work, because the verdict was unequivocal. However, Dibovsky decided to turn this circumstance into an asset and make his dream of studying unknown nature a reality in distant Siberia.

Life in Siberia – Difficult everyday life

For a guy like Benedykt Dybowski, there were no restrictions. And though it seems like a truism, the scale of his determination and devotion to science are shown by the history and conditions of his stay in exile. Despite forced labor and undoubted effort, he found time to collect new samples, for which he underwent research. Work in Siberia was not a poet, and unfinished tasks were severely punished. Even more impressive is the fact that the excellent organization of the Polish scientist allowed him to conduct a free medical practice.

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Dybovsky did not care about his health and comfort. He was so focused on science that there were times when he would spend the night on the bare ground or on the surface of the frozen Lake Baikal. He even built a temporary house there, which was heated with a makeshift stove. Who of us today will bear it and devote so much to science?

Siberia for the second time – the journey of choice

The penalty period expired and Dybowski was able to return to Poland. It happened, but he could not find work there, which prompted him to emigrate. There would be nothing unusual in this, if not for the fact that he chose Siberia as his destination, where he spent the last 12 years of his life in captivity. His motive was to work for the glory of his homeland, which he loved above all, and the will to continue the search he had begun. As a free man, he worked as a doctor in Kamchatka, establishing hospitals, treating lepers and common vaccinations against smallpox.

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Great contribution to the world of science

His second trip resulted in the collection of incredibly large research materials. There were so many samples collected that Benedykt Dybowski took advantage of the help and decided to send the material to Poland. We owe it to Benedykt Dybowski for the classification of several hundred new species of animals and plants and the discovery of the division of Baikal into two basins: eastern and western.

Want to learn more about Dybowski and other prominent figures in Polish science? Listen to the “Academy of Superheroes” audiobook.

Małgorzata Gogól-Górecka
author

Małgorzata Gogól-Górecka

By profession and professional I deal with content marketing and content editing. I have been working with Words for over 9 years, gaining my experience in marketing agencies and NGOs. in science. As for the likes, I am primarily responsible for the development of the site. On a personal level – I love art (I am a flutist and art historian) and travel to every, even the nearest corner of the world.

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