Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher

By William Taussig Scott; Martin X. Moleski | Go to book overview

1

Early Years: 1891–1914

Michael Polanyi was born and raised in the middle of the last golden age of European civilization, the great peace that preceded the Great War of 1914. His family and intellectual life were rooted in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Although he maintained ties with Hungary throughout his life, his career shows that he saw himself above all as a citizen of Europe much more than as a citizen of one nation or another.

Little is known of Polanyi's great-grandfather, Mihaly Pollacsek, except that he was born in 1785 in the Carpathian Mountains of Slovakia (part of "greater" Hungary) and was probably descended from Enoch Pollacsek, reputedly the richest man in Slovakia. Mihaly Pollacsek and his wife were one of the first Jewish families in Hungary to obtain permission to lease forest lands from the crown, setting up lumber mills in several places late in the eighteenth century. Family legend has it that Pollacsek's wife was asked by the people of their town to bathe on the day the Jewish women used the bath and not when the Christian women bathed. Pollacsek retorted that if they felt that way, he would personally close the bath one day a week and only his wife would use it then.

Polanyi's grandparents, Adolf Pollacsek (b. 1820 in Trsztena in Slovakia) and Sophie Schlesinger (b. 1826 in Dluha), married in about 1846. Adolf was a construction engineer. Sophie's family possessed a large textile mill. She and Adolf inherited control of the Pollacseks' lumber mills. About the year 1860, the couple also took over the management of a flour mill in the northeastern Hungarian provincial capital city of Ungvar, Ruthenia. They negotiated

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Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Contents xv
  • A Note on Names xvii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Part I - Hungary: 1891–1919 1
  • 1: Early Years: 1891–1914 3
  • 2: Coming of Age in the Great War: 1914–1919 33
  • Part II - Germany: 1919–1933 53
  • 3: Karlsruhe: 1919–1920 55
  • 4: The Fiber Institute: 1920–1923 67
  • 5: Institute for Physical Chemistry: 1923–1933 93
  • Part III - Manchester: 1933–1959 131
  • 6: Physical Chemistry and Economics: 1933–1937 133
  • 7: The Philosophy of Freedom: 1938–1947 171
  • 8: Personal Knowledge: 1948–1959 211
  • Part IV - Scholar at Large: 1959–1976 237
  • 9: Merton College, Oxford: 1959–1961 239
  • 10: At the Wheel of the World: 1961–1971 247
  • 11: The Last Years: 1971–1976 279
  • Epilogue 293
  • Appendix: People Interviewed by William T. Scott 295
  • Notes 297
  • Bibliography of Works by Michael Polanyi 327
  • Index 351
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