Circumstances of Scientific Travels to Western Europe and Their Organization at the University of Vilnius (1803–1832)

  • Daiva Milinkevičiūtė
Keywords: Vilnius University, scientific travel, instructions, reports, professor, rector


The article focuses on formal circumstances of the organization of scientific travels in Vilnius University (1803–1832), especially on the provision of instructions for outbound scientists and the results of the tasks recorded in their reports. The article discusses the links between the circles who organized scientific travels in Western Europe: the outgoing scientist, the professor who gives instructions, the rector, and the curator. The role of instructions in the organization and regulation of scientific travels is examined. Although the issue of scientific travels of Vilnius University scientists to the countries of Western Europe has already been raised, it was approached one-sidedly through the topic of travels of the scientists from the university’s Department of Physics and Mathematics to France. A more detailed analysis becomes possible with the use of such new sources as instructions for travellers and their reports, travel diaries, and correspondence. Instructions issued by the university define the tasks of a scientific journey that must be done and specific tasks reflecting the needs of each department. It was very important for the scientists to follow the instructions because they served as a basis for their research the results of which had to be presented in reports. Sending the reports to the university was mandatory for tracking scientists’ results and the course of their travel, every half year or even more often. Reports were highly welcomed at the meetings of the university council. This allowed the university to follow the latest scientific news and the progress of the scientists. By sending reports on the course of the journey, the researchers secured smooth running of their research work and willingness to get a higher position at the university. The selection of scholars for foreign trips was related to their talents, scientific needs of the university, and personal interests of higher-standing professors to have a successor – a specialist who would be well-trained and up-to-date in his field. Moreover, at the initial stage of the newly reorganized university, researchers did not hesitate to travel without any material support from the university. Nevertheless, upon return they had bigger chances of receiving professorship at their Alma mater. On the other hand, not always the deserving scientists were chosen to go abroad. The university was in a great need of a good chemist and that was why Ignacy Abłamowicz was sent abroad. However, he did not inform the university about the progress of the trip and the fulfilment of tasks in his reports, and was punished: he had to compete for the position of a chemistry professor and finance his journey himself. Had he complied with the university rules, he would have been given the department without a competition. All in all, the university was capable of solving organizational issues, dynamically finding solutions to problems, and using them constructively for its own benefit. The instructions and reports played the main role here.