Science is an indispensable part of any nation's culture and at the same time an important prerequisite for economic and social progress of a country. The development of scientific thought in Lithuania went through periods of progress and decline.
As a system, science in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania began developing after the founding of Vilnius University - Academia et Universitas Vilnensis - in 1579. Among the academic staff of the newly-founded university there were a number of researchers renowned for their achievements in the fields of mathematics, medicine, natural and social sciences, and the humanities. Many of them were graduates of famous Western European universities, and on the other hand, a number of professors and graduates of Vilnius University were invited to work in institutions of higher education abroad.
In 1773, a group of professors of Vilnius University led by the prominent astronomer Martynas Po obutas (Marcin Poczobut) decided to establish the Vilnius Academy of Sciences, an institution for research and promotion of science. Martynas Po obutas (1728-1810) was born in Grodno and was educated at the Jesuit College there. He was professor of mathematics and astronomy at Vilnius University from 1764 and completed the construction of the Astronomical Observatory in Vilnius, becoming its first director. He established the Department of Applied Mechanics in the University of Vilnius in 1780.
The plans of this group, however, were thwarted by continuous wars that devastated the country. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had existed from the 16th century but in 1768 it became a protectorate of the Russian Empire. Over the following years various partitions and uprisings ended in both Poland and Lithuania ceasing to exist as countries from 1795.
In 1803 Vilnius University was reorganized and the number of courses taught here rose significantly to include mechanics, technology, probability theory, agronomy, statistics, and diplomacy. It goes without saying that research in these disciplines also expanded.
In 1832, the tsarist government closed Vilnius University because its professors and students participated in the November 1831 uprising in the partitioned Republic (Rzeczpospolita) against the Russian Empire. The astronomical observatory of the university was taken over by the Russian Academy of Sciences. Vilnius Academy of Medicine and Surgery was closed in 1842, and the Theological Academy was moved to St Petersburg. Many of the university's professors and students were repressed and exiled, and numerous requests to reopen Vilnius University were ignored by the tsarist authorities. Lithuania was left without a single institution of higher education.
The end of the nineteenth century was marked by a rising wave of national revival. Local and émigré intellectuals began to form political, cultural, public, and scientific organizations. This process was further accelerated after the lifting of the ban on the Lithuanian press in 1904. In 1907, Lietuvisų mokslo draugija (the Lithuanian Society for Science) was founded with Dr Jonas Basanavičius as its chairperson. Basanavičius (1851-1927) had studied medicine in Moscow and worked as a doctor in Bulgaria from 1880 to 1905. Returning to Lithuania in 1905 he was elected chairman of the major assembly, the Great Seimas of Vilnius, held in December of that year which demanded autonomy for Lithuania within the Russian Empire. After founding the Lithuanian Society for Science, he chaired its first meeting on 7 April 1907. According to the charter of the society, its aims included conducting research into various fields of science, promoting scientific thought and information, and publishing. These objectives were quite similar to those of present-day academies of sciences.
Other scientific societies appeared in Lithuania at the same time or later. The Polish scientific organization, Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk w Wilnie (Society of Friends of Science in Vilnius) was founded in 1907. This Society pressed for the reopening of the University of Vilnius.
In 1925, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was opened in Vilnius, and it was a significant addition to the existing and well developed system of Jewish cultural and educational institutions in Vilnius. It was founded :-
... to document and study Jewish life in all its aspects: language, history, religion, folkways, and material culture. YIVO had a special focus on the Jews of Eastern Europe, but collected books, manuscripts and other artefacts from Jewish communities around the world.After the First World War, in 1918, Lithuania declared its independence and a number of institutions of learning and research were either reopened or newly established. Among these, mention should be made of the re-opened Vilnius University and the Higher Courses in Kaunas opened in 1920. In 1922, the Higher Courses were reorganized into the University of Lithuania which was renamed as Vytautas Magnus University in 1930. The Agricultural Academy was founded in Dotnuva, a town 50 kilometres to the north of Kaunas, in 1924, and the Veterinary Academy opened in Kaunas in 1936.
The idea of the Academy of Sciences was not forgotten in independent Lithuania. However, it was difficult to establish an organization like this without tangible support from the country's government, and it was only on 1 September 1938 that the Institute of Lithuanian Studies was established. On 1 September 1940, the Wroblewski State Library was transferred to the Institute of Lithuanian Studies which took over its holdings and property. These developments determined the change of the institution's status and name: it became the Central Library of the Institute of Lithuanian Studies. The founders of the Institute envisaged that it would evolve into an academy that would conduct research in various fields of science.
Owing to historical circumstances, the Academy of Sciences was established on 16 January 1941, that is, after Lithuania had already lost its independence. The three institutions that could be collectively called the precursors of the Academy of Sciences - the Lithuanian Society for Science, Vytautas Magnus University, and the Institute of Lithuanian Studies - offered their unconditional support to the new organization of science and research. Meanwhile, the new Academy of Sciences was expected to find solutions for large-scale issues such as the exploration and rational use of Lithuania's natural resources, study of the history and cultural heritage of the Lithuanian people and the research into key issues of the building of socialism in all its aspects, compulsory at the time.
The first President of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences was the famous Lithuanian scholar and writer Professor Vincas Krv-Mickevi ius. Vincas Mickevi ius (1882-1954) was a poet, writer and novelist who was appointed as Prime Minister of Lithuania in June 1940. The first Charter of the Academy provided for the establishment of three scientific divisions: the humanities, social sciences and economics, as well as natural and technical sciences and mathematics. The divisions were delegated powers to establish research institutes and other supporting organizations and offices. The first thirteen academicians were appointed by the government despite the fact that they were to be elected according to the Charter.
During the first stage of its existence, which coincided with the years of the Second World War, the humanities prevailed in the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. In the post-war years, the re-established Academy of Sciences functioned under harsh conditions when the activities of scientists were strictly regulated and monitored. Nonetheless, the progressive scientific thought was always alive within the Academy of Sciences. It was especially stimulated by Professor Juozas Matulis, a great authority in electrochemistry who served as the fourth President of the Academy of Sciences from 1946 to 1984. Matulis (1899-1993) graduated from the University of Lithuania in 1929 and had spent time at the University of Leipzig before being appointed to the University of Vilnius. He was made a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR in 1946. A number of research institutions were established, and the scientific community was growing. The most advanced was research in the fields of physics, mathematics, and in some natural sciences. Their main research trends were evolving. It was in these fields that the most significant scientific results, widely known and globally recognized, were achieved. Meanwhile, the humanities and social sciences were strongly affected by the socialist ideology. However, the ideals of the nation's statehood and sovereignty, as well as concern for the country's problems and fate lingered on.
The role of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in the promotion of the idea of the restoration of Lithuania's independence, of paving the paths and creating the means for its implementation cannot be overstated. The first public meeting of the steering group of the Sąjkūdis, or National Reform Movement, was held in the Academy's conference hall on 9 June 1988; the Green movement, which started at approximately the same time, was also born in the Academy of Sciences.
In as early as 1989, the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences declared its independence from the USSR Academy of Sciences. The declaration triggered a period of reforms. At that time the prominent physicist Academician Juras Požela was President of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (he served in this role from 1984 to 1992). In March 1990, the Academy declared its decision to be independent of any public or political institution. The Academy of Sciences was structured as a network of 17 scientific research institutes, and a number of auxiliary scientific and industrial enterprises. It had a staff of over 5,600 employees, including 2,000 scientists engaged in research.
On 12 February 1991, the law of the Republic of Lithuania on Research and Studies was passed which defined the status of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences within the system of the country's scientific institutions and defined its relations with the State. Following this law, a new Statute of the Academy of Sciences was drafted and was approved by the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania on 18 March 2003. The enactment of this law and the new Statute of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences ended the period of reforms in the Academy. From 1992 to 2003, the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences was headed by the well-known biochemist Academician Benediktas Juodka. The acclaimed physicist Academician Zenonas Rokus Rudzikas presided over the Academy from 2003 to 2009. Academician Valdemaras Razumas presided over the Academy from 2009 to 2018. Academician Jūras Banys, the present President of the Academy, was elected on 1 February 2018.
The prestige and influence of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences is felt in nearly every field of the country's academic life. Out of 29 currently functioning state scientific research institutes, 24 institutes were established and expanded by the Academy of Sciences. The members of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences work in all the leading universities in Lithuania and participate in shaping the trends of research performed in other establishments as well, including those of high-tech biochemical and laser industry.
Much information about mathematics at the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences during its first 50 years is given in . We give a brief quote from near the beginning of the article:-
In the post-war years Professors Petras Katilius, Vytautas Paulauskas, Zigmas Zemaitis, whose students started mathematical research in Lithuania after improving their qualifications at the scientific centres of Russia, worked side-by-side with their younger colleagues. One of them was Jonas Kubilius who graduated from the post-graduate courses at St Petersburg University and defended his thesis for a Candidate's degree in physics and mathematics in 1961. In 1962 he began his career at the Institute of Physics and Technology at the newly established sector of physics, mathematics and astronomy. Jonas Kubilius with his works gave rise to mathematical research at the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. With the application of probabilistic methods in the theory of numbers, in the course of several years he obtained valuable results and pooled them in his Doctor's thesis "Investigations into the Probabilistic Theory of Numbers", defended in 1958. J Kubilius' monograph "Probabilistic Methods in the Theory of Numbers" (published in 1959) initiated a new branch of mathematical sciences - a probabilistic theory of numbers. Alongside his scientific research J Kubilius was engaged in extensive organizational activities. On October 1, 1956 the Institute of Physics and Mathematics was founded. Thanks to his efforts the Sector of Mathematics was established at this institute. He was the first to head this sector, simultaneously holding the post of a deputy director for scientific work of the Institute. Due to his active scientific and organizational work J Kubilius was nominated rector of Vilnius University in 1958.
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