In Chile, every child knows his name. He was a prominent Polish mineralogist, geologist, mathematician and mining engineer.
Ignacy Domeyko was born in Niedźwiadka, a village situated in the back then partitioned Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – a country created as a result of a personal union between the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1386 and formally established in 1569. Currently, Niedźwiadka lies within the borders of Belarus.
Domeyko studied Mathematics at the University of Vilnius and belonged to the Philomath Society. He also took part in the November Uprising and afterwards because of the repressions emigrated to France.
In Paris, he took up mining studies, he also made friends with an outstanding Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz. In 1838 he went to Chile at the invitation of local authorities. He became a professor in La Serena School of Mining, later at the University of Santiago de Chile. He was awarded an honorary citizenship of Chile – he spent there over 50 years. Domeyko conducted a lot of scientific research while travelling across this largest country of the world. He discovered nitre, iron, gold and coal ores. Moreover, he defended the rights of native Americans. He worked out ways of quarrying the natural resources and described the minerals in much detail. What’s more, he dealt with mining not only in the scientific scope, but also juridical. Since 1852 he was responsible for reforms of Chilean higher education. Because of his enormous contribution to Chile’s economical growth, he’s one of the most praiseworthy men of this country.
Nonetheless, Ignacy Domeyko never forgot about Poland, which was always present in his mind and heart. Shortly before his death he visited Poland, where in 1887 he was awarded a Honoris Causa Doctorate by the Jagiellonian University. He died on 23 January 1889 in Santiago. A mountain range, three cities in Chile and and a few discoveries (for example domeykit mineral) were named after him.