"Whoever is not moved by human misery, whoever does not have softness and sweetness in his manner, whoever does not have enough strength and willpower to control himself always and everywhere, had better choose another profession because he will never be a good doctor."
"Thoughts and Aphorisms on Medical Ethics", 1899.
Władysław Biegański and his work
Dr Władysław Biegański - an outstanding physician, scientist, philosopher, ethicist and social activist, Częstochowa citizen of the century – published 132 works in the field of medicine and philosophy in print during his 35 years of work in Częstochowa. He remained loyal to Częstochowa until the end of his life, rejecting numerous, often very tempting offers to take up positions in larger scientific centres.
He wrote several medical textbooks and philosophical works on ethics, logic and the theory of cognition. We can say that he was a forerunner in many areas of medicine; his thought and discoveries were ahead of their time and have a timeless dimension. He co-founded the then emerging fields of medicine: neurology (in which he was particularly interested), cardiology, internal diseases, infectious diseases, ENT, surgery and orthopaedics. In his contemporaries' times he was called "a professor without a chair", because he wrote his pioneering scientific works far from university centres, in a small and provincial at that time town – Częstochowa. Thanks to Biegański, the local hospital in Częstochowa, where he worked, became a scientific centre whose achievements were compared with those of university centres. Abroad, Biegański is regarded as the creator of a breakthrough in world medicine (after Professor Gerwazy Świderski).
His textbook "Differential Diagnosis of Internal Diseases" (1891) of 585 pages, sought after and appreciated by doctors and medical students, lived to see two further editions (1896, 1903). This, which none of the Polish professors, clinicians had been able to achieve, became the fruit of the efforts of a young doctor from the province. Further textbooks include: "Lectures on Acute Infectious Diseases" (1900-1901), "From the Casuistry of Diseases of the Nervous System", "The Logic of Medicine" or „The Principles of the General Methodology of Medical Science” (1894) - one of his most outstanding works, reissued in 1908, translated into German in 1909. With this work Biegański entered the field of strict philosophy, which increasingly dominated his work. He published many philosophical works, such as "General Issues in the Theory of Medical Sciences" (1897), "The Principles of General Logic" (1903). In 1907 he published a textbook on logic for secondary schools and self-taught students. "The Theory of Logic" (1912) was awarded the Spasowicz Prize by the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. Investigations in the field of logic provided the foundation for further evolution of Biegański's philosophical thought into the theory of cognition.
"Treatise on Cognition and Truth" (1910 – 1912), and "The Theory of Cognition from the Standpoint of the Principle of Purpose" (1914 - 1915)*** are a synthesis of his original views, according to which cognition is aimed at enabling the prediction of events - the theory of prevision. As a philosopher, he is regarded as one of the most outstanding representatives of the Polish school of philosophy and medicine.
A work that has lost nothing of its relevance is the collection "Thoughts and Aphorisms on Medical Ethics"(1899). The thoughts contained therein are still current and should be constantly reminded. We can boldly call Dr Bieganski the co-creator of medical deontology. The last work of the doctor-philosopher was a textbook "General Ethics", which was completed in the first days of January 1917. On 29 January, he suffered a violent attack of angina, which put an end to his life. Bieganski did not live to see the printing of his last work. It was published in 1918, edited by Władysław Tatarkiewicz, and a second time in 1922.
"And undoubtedly the memory will long survive of this beautiful figure of a Polish scholar, (...),
who did not seek honours, but sought the truth honestly and unreservedly, a man of titanic labour".
Władysław Tatarkiewicz Introduction to "General Ethics by Władysław Biegański, 1918.
Beata Zawadowicz, MD.
President of the Częstochowa Medical Society
- founded in 1901 by Dr. Władysław Biegański
- the first President of the Society
Translated from Polish by Jarosław Pojda MD.