Polanyi Chronology

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Synopsis of Polanyi's Life

MEP = synopsis of Polanyi's life assembled by his wife, Magda E. Polanyi.

PM = Phil Mullins.

Additional details have been added from the Biographical Memoirs of the Fellows of the Royal Society obituary by Hodgkin and Wigner.

year age detail
1891 Born in Budapest, Hungary, [March 11/12] (TD, opposite title page) of Viennese parents (family name changed from "Pollacsek" to "Polanyi" to sound more Magyar).
1899 8 "His father, who had been a civil engineer and was constructing and financing railways in Hungary, lost all his money" (MEP).
1905 14 "The father died and Polanyi earned his living from that time by tutoring richer schoolmates" (MEP).
1909 17 Became a student of medicine at the University of Budapest (MEP).
1913 22 "Graduated as Doctor of Medicine ... He left Budapest in 1913 and entered the Technical University in Karlsruhe, Germany, in order to study Chemistry" (MEP).
1914 23
  • "Joined the Austro-Hungarian army as a surgeon" (MEP).
  • Received doctoral degree in Medicine from the University of Budapest.
  • First paper on adsorption published (K&B, 87).
1914-18 23-27 Medical officer in the Austro-Hungarian Army (K&B, 89). "His studies in Karlsruhe were interrupted in 1914 by the outbreak of the First World War; he joined the Austro-Hungarian army as a surgeon" (MEP).
1917 26 Theory of adsorption accepted as Ph.D. thesis in Physical Chemistry at University of Budapest thanks to the "complete ignorance of the professor of theoretical physics" (K&B, 93).
1918 27 "In 1918 he acted as a lecturer at the University of Budapest under Professor G. von Hevesy" (MEP).
1919 28 Baptized a Catholic (apparently for the sake of convenience; Scott, "Religious Reality," 86). "In September 1919 he again went to Karlsruhe, working on theoretical studies in reaction velocity" (MEP).
1920 29 Institute of Fibre Chemistry in Berlin-Dahlem (crystals, K&B, 97). "From September 1920 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Textile Chemistry, Berlin, he established the structure of cellulose, devised the Rotating Crystal Method for X-ray diagrams" (MEP).
1923 32 Institute of Physcal Chemistry (reaction kinetics, K&B, 104). "In 1923 he became departmental Head under Haber at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical and Electro-Chemistry. He also became a Privatdozent at the University, Berlin" (MEP).
1926 35 Promoted to Professor (MEP).
1929 37 Made Life Member of Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physical Chemistry (TD, opposite title page). "After the second World War, the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft was re-named Max Planck Gesellschaft. Göttingen, Germany" (MEP).
1930 39 Joint paper with London, based on quantum-mechanical resonance and "inverse third power law" (K&B, 90).
1932 41
  • Atomic Reactions. London: Williams and Norgate, 1932.
  • November: preparing to resign (MEP).
  • December: "accepted the Chair of Physical Chemistry in the University of Manchester, England" (MEP).
1933 42
  • Fled Hitler's persecution of the Jews.
  • September: Assumed duties as Professor of Physical Chemistry at University of Manchester (MEP).
  • Elected Professor of Physical Chemistry at the Victoria University of Manchester, England (TD, opposite title page).
  • "Foreign Member of the Society of Science, Letters, and Arts, Naples" (MEP).
1935 44 "I first met questions of philosophy when I came up against the Soviet ideology under Stalin which denied justification to the pursuit of science" (TD, 3). In this decade, Polanyi also moved from chemistry to economics and social analysis.
1936 45 USSR Economics: Fundamental Data, System and Spirit. Manchester University Press, 25 pp.
1938 47 "In 1938 (?) asked by Professor [George P. Thomson] to take charge of the British section of the Atomic Project. He declined, as all the names were those of refugees who were put on a 'hopeless project.' A grave misjudgment" (MEP). [MXM: Bill Scott and Monika Tobin could not confirm this claim by Magda.]
1940 49 The Contempt of Freedom. London: Watts and Company, 1940.
1944 53 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
1945 54
  • Full Employment and Free Trade. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Lloyd Roberts Lecturer, University of Manchester.
1946 55
  • University of Durham, Riddell Memorial Lecture, 18th series. Published as Science, Faith and Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).
  • Lloyd Roberts Lecturer, Manchester.
1948 57
  • " . . . retired from the professional pursuit of science to take up philosophy" (K&B, 87). "Manchester University has made it possible for me to accept the invitation of Aberdeen and to spend nine years almost exclusively on the preparation of this book. The generosity of Senate and Council in allowing me to exchange my Chair of Physical Chemistry for a Professorial appointment without lecturing duties . . . " (PK, ix).
  • " . . . I turned to philosophy as an afterthought to my career as a scientist" (TD, 3).
1949 58 "Made Foreign Life Member of the Max Planck Gessellschaft" (MEP).
1950 59
  • "Alexander White Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago" (MEP).
  • " . . . has lectured since then, as Visiting Professor or Senior Fellow, at the universities of Chicago, Aberdeen, Virginia, Stanford, and Merton College, Oxford" (TD, opposite title page).
  • "Scientific Beliefs," Ethics 61 (1950) 27-37.
  • "This work owes much to Dr. Marjorie Grene. The moment we first talked about it in Chicago in 1950 she seemed to have guessed my whole purpose, and ever since she has never ceased to help its pursuit. Setting aside her own work as a philosopher, she has devoted herself for years to the service of the present enquiry. Our discussions have catalysed its progress at every stage and there is hardly a page that has not benefited from her criticism. She has a share in anything that I may have achieved here" (PK, ix).
1951 60
  • The Logic of Liberty: Reflections and Rejoinders. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  • May 7: First Gifford Lecture.
1951-2 61-62 Completed the second series of Gifford Lectures, which formed the basis of Personal Knowledge (PK ix).
1953 62 "Science and Conscience," Religion in Life 23 (1953) 47-58.
1954 63 Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago (MEP)
1958 67
  • Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (epistemology; endorsed Protestant theology). Chicago, University of Chicago Press.
  • "Lindsay Lecturer. First Lindsay Memorial Lecture, Keele University" (MEP).
1959 68
  • The Study of Man -- "a theory of historiography" (TD, ix). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1959-1961 68-69 Senior Research Fellow at Merton College, Oxford
1960 69
  • "Beyond Nihilism," Encounter 14 (1960) 34-43, reprinted in K&B, 3-23.
  • "Eddington Lecturer, Cambridge University" (MEP).
  • "Gunning Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh" (MEP).
  • "J. C. Bose Lecturer, Calcutta" (MEP).
1961 70
  • "Distinguished Research Fellow at the University of Virginia" (MEP). First public lectures on the substance of The Tacit Dimension (TD, acknowledgments).
  • "McInnerny Lecture at Berkeley, California" (MEP).
  • "Faith and Reason," The Journal of Religion 41 (1961) 237-47.
  • "Knowing and Being," Mind 70 (1961) 458-70, reprinted in K&B, 123-37.
1962 71
  • Terry Lectures at Yale, from which The Tacit Dimension was developed (TD, acknowledgments; Mullins disagrees).
  • "Made Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Science" (MEP).
1962 71
  • "The Unaccountable Element in Science," Philosophy 37 (1962) 1-14, reprinted in K&B, 105-120.
  • "The Republic of Science: Its Political and Economic Theory," Minerva 1 (1962) 54-73, reprinted in K&B, 49-72.
  • "Tacit Knowing: Its Bearing on Some Problems of Philosophy," Review of Modern Physics 34 (1962) 601-616, reprinted in K&B, 159-180.
  • "Terry Lecturer at Yale" (MEP).
  • "Elected a Member of the International Academy of Philosophy of Science" (MEP).
1962-1963 71-72 "Fellow for the Center for Advanced Studies on Behavioral Science, Stanford University" (MEP).
1963 72 "Science and Religion: Separate Dimension or Common Ground?" Philosophy Today 7 (1963) 4-14.
1964 73
  • Duke University Lectures, February-March.
  • Spring term: "James Duke Visiting Professor at Duke University, North Carolina" (MEP).
  • Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto (TD, acknowledgments).
1965-1966 74-75 Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University (TD, opposite title page; MEP dates it as 1965). Lectures in the fall; in residence in the spring (PM).
1965 74 "The Structure of Consciousness," Brain 88 (1965) 799-810, reprinted in K&B, 211-224.
1966 75
  • The Tacit Dimension. New York: Doubleday and Company. "The present volume is the first account in book form of the work done during these nine years. The delay was caused by hope and by fear. The lure of the next bend behind which new sights might appear distracts us from the labor of taking stock, and the effect of this distraction is reinforced by the anxiety that our theories might be defeated at the next turn" (TD, ix).
  • "The Logic of Tacit Inference," Philosophy 41 (1966) 1-16, reprinted in K&B, 138-158.
  • "Faith and Reason," Journal of Religion 41 (1961), reprinted in Scientific Thought and Social Reality.
1967 76
  • "The Growth of Science in Society," Minerva 5 (1967) 533-545, reprinted in K&B, 73-86.
  • "Sense-Giving and Sense-Reading," Philosophy 12 (1967) 301-321, reprinted in K&B, 181-207.
  • "Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago" (MEP).
1968 77 "Life's Irreducible Structure," Science 160 (1968) 1308-1312, reprinted in K&B, 225-239.
1969 78
  • Knowing and Being. Edited by Marjorie Grene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • "On Body and Mind," New Scholasticism 43 (1969) 195-204.
1970 79 "Nuffield Gold Medal, Royal Society of Medicine" (MEP).
1971 80 "Visiting Professor at University of Texas in Austin" (MEP/PM).
1974 83 Scientific Thought and Social Reality: Essays by Michael Polanyi, edited by Fred Schwartz. New York: International Universities Press.
1975 84 Meaning, with Harry Prosch (dealing, in part , with aesthetics). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1976 85 Died February 22.
1977 William T. Scott, a physicist, began work on Polanyi's biography.
1997 Martin X. Moleski, SJ, a theologian, began to rewrite Scott's manuscript.
1999 Scott died on February 22--twenty-three years to the day after Polanyi died.
2005 Michael Polanyi: Scientist and Philosopher (Oxford University Press) by William T. Scott and Martin X. Moleski, SJ.

Honors

Honorary D.Sc
1946: Princeton
1947: Leeds
1966: Manchester
1969: Cambridge
Honorary LL.D
1959: Aberdeen
1965: Notre Dame
1965: Wesleyan
1967: Toronto