Jagiellonian University boasts influential alumni, and celebrates 650 years in 2014
Poland’s oldest institution of higher learning is the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, which dates its founding to 1364 by Casimir 111 the Great. So, this year (2014) they are celebrating 650 years! It is also ranked as Poland’s top research university. Called the University of Krakow for more than 400 years, it was re-christened in 1817 to honor the Jagiellonian dynasty that ruled much of this area of central Europe between the 14th and 16th centuries. The university scholars excelled in fields such as mathematics, geography, chemistry and astronomy; the last two were such undeveloped disciplines when first taught in Krakow that they were called alchemy and astrology.
Possibly the university’s greatest graduate actually moved the world: Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543, Class of 1495). He often attributed his ground-breaking thesis—that the earth circles the sun—to his studies in Krakow. He studied there from 1491-1495, and a number of astronomical instruments from that period are in the university museum.
In modern times, another graduate rose to change the course of history: Karol Wojtyla (1920-2005). His undergraduate career was cut short when Nazi occupiers closed the university in 1939, but he later returned to graduate and then to teach at the school. He was elected Pope in 1978, taking the name Pope John Paul 11.
Wikipedia has a long list of notable alumni and notable professors
The oldest existing building of the university is the Collegium Maius with a lovely courtyard and a museum, which is open to the public as part of a guided tour. We took the tour, which I’ll cover in another post.