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Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska

KIELAN-JAWOROWSKA, Zofia (25 April 1925, Sokołów Podlaski - 13 March 2015, Warsaw), palaeobiologist, specialist in the field of Mesozoic mammals. Daughter of Franciszek Kielan, an economist, and Maria Osińska, an accountant.

            In 1937, she passed the competition exam to the Aleksandra Piłsudska XVI State Gymnasium for Girls in Warsaw. From November 1939, she studied in secret classes and was awarded her high school diploma in 1943. At the same time (from 1940) she took part in classes at a gardening school. In the years 1943–44 she studied zoology in the secret classes of the Mathematics and Natural Sciences faculty of the University of Warsaw. Her family hid Jewish children from the Germans (1941–42).

            From the fall of 1939, K.-J. belonged to the Gray Ranks, participating in sanitary and communication courses. She took part in the Warsaw Uprising as a nurse. After the defeat of the uprising, she and her mother were sent to a transit camp in Pruszków. She escaped from a transport in Skierniewice and stayed first with her mother, and then with her father in Błonie near Warsaw, until the end of the war.

            In the fall of 1945, she began her studies at the Faculty of Biology at the University of Warsaw, where she obtained a master's degree in zoology (1949). Already during her studies, she worked at the Zoology Museum, and from September 1948 to December 1952 she was an assistant, on the initiative of Professor R. Kozłowski, at the Department of Palaeontology, University of Warsaw. She participated in establishing the Department of Paleozoology (from 1977 on, of the Institute of Paleozoology) of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, where she worked as a senior assistant (1953–60). In 1953, she defended her doctoral dissertation in palaeontology. She also participated in scholarships (1956) in Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Great Britain, where she conducted research on trilobites. In 1957 she obtained the degree of associate professor, became an associate professor in 1961, and in 1972 a full professor. In the period of January 1961 - December 1982 (resignation at her own request) she was the director of the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. She also worked as a visiting professor at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA (1973–74) and from 1982 to 1984 at the Institute of Palaeontology of the Natural History Museum in Paris, the Laboratory of Comparative Anatomy at the University of Paris, and the Museum of Natural History in New York.

From July 1984 to May 1987 she was the head of the Department of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. She then left for Norway, where from June 1987 to October 1995 she worked (after winning the competition) as a professor of palaeontology at the University of Oslo. She also carried out a comprehensive renovation of the Palaeontological Museum there. She was also invited to lectures at the universities of Bergen and Tromsø. After returning to Poland, she worked at the Institute of Paleobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

At the beginning of her scientific work (1949–63), she studied Palaeozoic invertebrates (Devonian and Ordovician trilobites of Poland and neighbouring countries). She dealt with their anatomy, systematics, stratigraphic distribution and palaeogeography. In the years 1963–71 she was a participant (1963, 1964), and then the organiser and manager of Polish-Mongolian palaeontological expeditions to the Gobi Desert (1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971). The main results of the research were published in the years 1969–84 in the journal ‘Palaeontologia Polonica’ (10 volumes of the monographic series: Results of the Polish-Mongolian Palaeontological Expeditions, in which 64 scientific papers were published). A number of new species of dinosaurs and primitive mammals from the late Cretaceous era were thereby discovered. The main research topic for K.-J. at that time were the herbivorous Mesozoic mammals (multituberculates), their skeletal and muscular systems, brain structure, systematics, evolution and relationship to modern mammals. Dozens of species of discovered animals have been named after her, including: Indobaatar zofiae, Kielanodon, Kielantherium, Zofiabaatar.

She was the author or co-author of over 230 books and scientific articles (in Polish and foreign journals), incl. publications such as: Les trilobites mésodévoniens des Monts des Sainte-Croix (1954), On the Stratigraphy of the Upper Ordovician in the Holy Cross Mts. (1956), Myśl ewolucyjna w paleontologii (1957), Upper Ordovician trilobites from Poland and some related forms from Bohemia and Scandinavia (1959), Czterysta milionów lat historii kręgowców (1965), Polish-Mongolian Palaeontological Expeditions to the Gobi Desert in 1963 and 1964 (1965), Polychaete Jaw Apparatuses from the Ordovician and Silurian of Poland and a Comparison with Modern Forms (1966), Discovery of a Multituberculate Marsupial Bone (1969), Preliminary Data on the Upper Cretaceous Eutherian Mammals from the Gobi Desert (1969), Pochodzenie i ewolucja ssaków (1970), Preliminary Description of Two New Eutherian Genera from the Late Cretaceous of Mongolia (1975), Mesozoic Mammals: the First Two-Thirds of Mammalian History (1979), The Origin of Egg Laying Mammals (1987), Ewolucja na lądach (1991), Trilobita (1991), Postcranial Anatomy and Habits of Asian Multituberculate Mammals (1994), Masticatory Musculature in Asian Taeniolabidoid Multituberculate Mammals (1995), Mammals from the Mesozoic of Mongolia (2000), In Quest for a Phylogeny of Mesozoic Mammals (2002), In Pursuit of Early Mammals (2013), W poszukiwaniu wczesnych ssaków. Ssaki ery dinozaurów (2013). One of the most appreciated publications, published together with RL Cifelli and Z.-X. Luo, is the book, Mammals from the Age of Dinosaurs: Origins, Evolution, and Structure (2004).

She also dealt with the popularisation of palaeontology. She developed and organised palaeontological exhibitions: ‘Dinosaurs from the Gobi Desert’ (Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, 1968–75), ‘Dinosaur Valley’ - presenting 16 life-size dinosaurs created as a result of the reconstruction of the remains found in the Gobi Desert (Silesian Zoological Garden in Chorzów, 1975) and ‘Evolution on land’(Museum of Evolution - a newly created section of the Institute of Paleobiology, 1985).

She was also an editor of the periodicals ‘Palaeontologica Polonica’ (1975–87) and ‘Acta Palaeontologica Polonica’ (1996–2013) and chairman of the Scientific Council of the Institute of Palaeobiology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (1996–98).

K.-J. received a number of awards and distinctions, including the State Science Award (1974), American Walter Granger Memorial Award (1988), doctorate honoris causa of the University of Camerino in Italy (1989), Alfred Jurzykowski Award of the Kościuszko Foundation in New York (1994), the Romer-Simpson Medal of the American Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology (1995), the Foundation for Polish Science Award (2005), and the Prime Minister's Award for Outstanding Scientific Achievements (2005).

She was, inter alia, a corresponding member (1967) and real member (1974) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and a member of the Presidium of the Polish Academy of Sciences (1971–82), a member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences (1989), Academia Europea (1991),the Polish Geological Association (1949), Polish Naturalists Association of Copernicus (honorary member), British International Paleontological Association (vice-president 1980–92), American Palaeontological Society, Norwegian Palaeontological Society (1987, president 1988–94), British Linnean Society (honorary member), American Society of Vertebrate Palaeontology (honorary member) , Société Géologique de France (honorary vice-president), and the International Union of Geological Sciences (vice-president 1980–89).

In 1981, she was the chairman of the Polish Academy of Sciences Presidium Committee for Appeals against Harming Human Resources Decisions of 1968–80 (a report on these papers was published only in 1989).

Among her awards are: Officer's Cross (1966), Commander's Cross (1973) and Commander's Cross with the Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2002), Warsaw Uprising Cross (1985), and the title of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ of the Yad Vashem Institute.

K.-J. was an atheist. From 1958 she was the wife of Zbigniew Jaworowski (1927–2011), a doctor, radiologist, professor of medical sciences, and an employee of the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw, who in April 1986 (after the Chernobyl disaster) initiated the administration of Lugol's fluid in Poland.


Z. Kielan-Jaworowska (ed.): Results of the Polish-Mongolian Palaeontological Expeditions, Parts I- X. 1968/1969, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1974, 1975. 1977, 1979. 1981, 1984; ‘Palaeontologia Polonica ‘no 19, 21, 25, 27, 30, 33, 37, 38, 42, 46; ‘Nauka Polska’ 1972, No. 4, pp. 67–69; M. Kuczyński: Zwrotnik dinozaura, Warsaw 1977; The Alfred Jurzykowski Foundation Awards for 1994, New York 1994, pp. 8–9; P. Köhler: Kielan-Jaworowska Zofia, [in:] Encyklopedia powszechna, Kraków 1999, pp. 471; Z. Kielan-Jaworowska: Autobiografia, KHNiT 2005, No. 1, pp. 7–49; R.L. Cifelli: Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (1925–2015), ‘Nature’, No. 520, pp. 158; Warstwy minionego czasu [interview with Professor Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska], ‘Nowe Książki’ 2014, No. 4, pp. 4–7; R. L. Cifelli, H. Hurum, M. Borsuk-Białynicka, Z. Luo, A. Kaim: Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska (1925–2015). ‘Acta Palaeontologica Polonica’ 2015, No. 2, pp. 287–290; R. L. Cifelli, Ł. Fostowicz-Frelik (ed.): Legacy of the Gobi Desert. Papers In Memory of Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska, ‘Palaeontologia Polonica’ vol. 67, 2016; Polowanie na dinozaury, ‘Ewolucja’ 2016, No. 6; Czarnobyl. Cztery dni w kwietniu, television play (2010).

Andrzej J. Wójcik, Zbigniew Wójcik

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