Prof. Piotr Węgleński, a great scientist, a long-term Vice-Rector and Rector of the University of Warsaw, passed away on 19th January 2024.

We would like to inform you that Prof. Piotr Węgleński, a great scientist, a long-term Vice-Rector and Rector of the University of Warsaw, passed away on 19th January 2024.

Rector and the UW community


Prof. Piotr Węgleński was born on 29th June 1939 in Świdniki, in a family with rich patriotic traditions. One of his ancestors was Jan Węgleński, Minister of the Treasury of the Kingdom of Poland, who greatly contributed to the establishment of the University of Warsaw in 1816.


He had been affiliated with the University since 1956, when, as a graduate of the Hugo Kołłątaj Secondary School in Warsaw, he began studying at the Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences. Already during his studies he did an internship at the Institute of Genetics. In 1961, he defended his master’s thesis on the genetics and cytology of Tetrigidae, written under the supervision of Prof. Wacław Gajewski. Since then, his entire professional career, from assistantship, through doctorate (1965), habilitation (1974), the position of associate professor (1982), to full professorship (1989), he was affiliated with the University of Warsaw.


Prof. Węgleński was an outstanding geneticist, author of numerous scientific publications, mainly on gene function regulation and genetic engineering. He was the scientific editor of the textbook Molecular Genetics (PL: Genetyka molekularna). He directed important research projects, such as the construction of bacterial strains for the production of human insulin and human growth hormone, or (together with a team from the Warsaw University of Technology) the development of a computer using the reactions of DNA molecules.


In the 1970s, he undertook numerous research internships in the UK (John Innes Institute), the USA (Massachussets Institute of Technology, MIT) and France (Paris XI). His stays abroad gave him the opportunity to learn about nascent genetic engineering. As an academic teacher, he was famous for the visionary introduction of its methods in Poland. For several years, the Institute of Genetics at the University of Warsaw was the only Polish scientific institution where these techniques were applied.


Prof. Piotr Węgleński was a member of many scientific societies and committees, i.a. a member of the Warsaw Scientific Society and a full national member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He was awarded honorary doctorates at the universities of Sofia, Ivanofrankivsk, Arequipa and Podgorica.


Prof. Węgleński’s organisational flair was evident in the numerous university positions he held. He headed the Institute of Genetics, served as Director of the Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology and Vice-Director of the Institute of Botany. He was Vice-Rector of the University of Warsaw for many years, and Rector of the University of Warsaw from 1999 until 2005.


Leading the University, he took care of its investment development, raising funds for research and expanding its teaching offer. In 1999, as Rector-elect, together with his predecessor, Włodzimierz Siwiński, he took part in the opening ceremony of the new premises of the University Library in Powiśle, attended by the Pope. He obtained funds for the renovation of the former library on the UW campus in Krakowskie Przedmieście and led to the adaptation of its space for teaching rooms.


Prof. Piotr Węgleński was the originator of the series of popular science lectures for the New Millennium, inaugurated in October 2000, whose speakers include scientists, politicians, people connected with the world of culture and art, as well as the clergy.

He has also held organisational functions outside the University. He was Vice-Chairman of the Conference of Rectors of Academic Schools in Poland and Chairman of the Conference of Rectors of Warsaw Universities. He was awarded the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

The funeral of Prof. Piotr Węgleński took place on 1st February.


On 1st February at 11.00 am a solemn session in the Senate Hall of the Kazimierzowski Palace was held in memory of Prof. Piotr Węgleński. At 13.00 am, a mass took place at the Church of St. Joseph of the Visitationists (Krakowskie Przedmieście 34). The funeral ceremony was held at 2.30 pm at the Powązki Military Cemetery.