Ivan Puluj – physicist, pioneer of X-rays and translator of the Bible into Ukrainian

Skodagasse 3, 1080, Відень
Date of birth:
Date of death:
a well-known scientist, patriot of Ukraine, a famous physicist and electrical engineer, public figure, translator of Bible into Ukrainian
Vienna district:
48.211828226073905, 16.345116203154614

Ivan Pavlovych Puluj (1845, Hrymailiv, Galicia, now Chortkiv district – 1918, Prague) was a famous scientist and patriot of Ukraine, a famous physicist and electrical engineer, public figure and translator of the Bible into Ukrainian. He was born in a Greek Catholic family in the Ternopil region.

Ivan Puluj successfully completed his studies at the Ternopil Gymnasium and continued his educational journey at the Faculty of Philosophy in Vienna, where he studied theology for 5 years. At the same time, Puluj studied physics, astronomy and mathematics at lectures. Immediately after completing his theology studies, Puluj had a chance to become a priest, as his parents wished. However, the future genius went his own way and seriously took up the study of electronics and physics.

The Ukrainian began to work as a scientist in 1872-1874 accompanied by prof. von Liang. He was a docent at the University of Vienna. In the following years, Ivan Puluj worked as a physics teacher at the Naval Academy in Fiume (now Croatia). As a scholarship holder of the Austrian Ministry of Education, Ivan Puluj improved his professional knowledge of physics at the University of Strasbourg in 1875 and was also parallelly studying electrical engineering there. In 1876, he received a doctorate in philosophy, defending his doctoral dissertation in Strasbourg. Then, for more than 30 years (1884 – 1916), he was the head of the Physics department of the German Polytechnic University in Prague, at first as a dean and then as the rector of this institution. At that time, the Ukrainian scientist became the first dean of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Europe. Later, in Austria, Emperor Franz Joseph appointed him Counselor of the Court and awarded him the Knight’s Cross. It is also known that in the Czech Republic and Moravia, Ivan Puluj was a state adviser in the field of electrical engineering. After finishing his work duties in the German Polytechnic University in Prague, he was offered the post of Minister of Education in Austria, which he refused to take due to his health problems.

Ivan Puluj: X-rays and an unfortunate coincidence

The fact that Ivan Puluj was the author of 50 scientific publications on electrical engineering and physics in Ukrainian, English and German is also a confirmation of the talent of the Ukrainian genius. Ivan Puluj belonged to the community of world scientists of the XX century and was a respected member of the Scientific Society named after T. Shevchenko. Puluj paved the way for X-rays through his in-depth research in cathode rays and the construction of cathode ray tubes in the early 1880s. But it was purely by an unfortunate coincidence that the world learned about Roentgen’s achievement at the end of 1885 first. Even Albert Einstein supported the Ukrainian with a letter, saying that, unfortunately, because of Roentgen’s fame and roots, he turned out to be more fortunate.

Ivan Puluj and public activities

As already mentioned, Ivan Puluj also proved himself in public life. While still attending the gymnasium, Puluj organized a youth group called  “Громада” (eng. “Community”), which aimed to study Ukrainian history and literature. While studying in Vienna, he was also a co-organizer of the society “Віденська Січ” (engl. “Vienna Sich”), which was the driving force behind the unification of Ukrainian youth. Back in his student days, he was able to translate a geometry textbook into Ukrainian, publish articles in defense of his native language, and actively express his commitment to the idea of establishing a Ukrainian university in Lviv. He advocated the revival of Ukrainian statehood during the First World War. According to witnesses’ accounts, Ivan Puluj was a polyglot, with 15 languages in his arsenal, including Greek and Hebrew!

The Ukrainian genius died on January 31, 1918, in Prague, where he was buried.


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