Włodzimierz Ptak

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Włodzimierz Ptak
If we look at the highly specialized action of our immune system, we will appreciate into what a brilliant tool evolution has shaped us.

Włodzimierz Wojciech Ptak (2 November 1928 – 28 May 2019) was a Polish immunologist and microbiologist, one of the most frequently cited Polish scientists in the field of biomedicine after 1965.

Quotes[edit]

  • As for the number of people reluctant to me, I guess I fall in the national average. Maybe it's about talking openly what I think? For example, in 1980 an interview with several professors – including myself – was ran by the newspaper Dziennik Polski, very much against the then authorities. We've all been in favor of far-reaching changes, but each of us saw these changes differently. I am a nonbeliever. And there comes the „Solidarity” with holy masses and sprinkling corpses with holy water. I thought that policy of the University, beneficial to the „Solidarity”, was not always beneficial for the University itself. From time to time, friendly people try to affront me, even though I did not belong neither to the youth communist organization neither to the party, neither had I contacts with the communist Security Service. And generally I didn't have herd instincts.
    • Kobos, Andrzej (2009). Po drogach uczonych (in Polish). 4. Kraków: Polska Akademia Umiejętności, pp. 383–398. ISBN 978-83-7676-021-6.
  • At Yale, I initially continued research on the problems which I brought from Poland. Within a few months, I made five papers and then published them in the leading American and British magazines. They liked me, they came to the conclusion that Ptak is good and efficient. The head of the Department of Pathology was then Richard K. Gershon, would-be Nobel Prize winner, a Polish Jew in a third generation. He died of lung cancer in 1983, at the age of fifty. We were close friends; I spent the last months of his life with him. Sometimes, speaking with me, he joked: „You're too intelligent not to be Jewish.”
    • Kobos, Andrzej (2009). Po drogach uczonych (in Polish). 4. Kraków: Polska Akademia Umiejętności, pp. 383–398. ISBN 978-83-7676-021-6.
  • Contrary to what is often thought, excessive hygiene, staying in an antibacterial environment, does not necessarily lead to a better health. Sometimes it causes even health deterioration. Indirect proof may be that among rural children there are fewer allergic diseases than among urban children. This is because children in the countryside have contact with a lot more bacteria. In every respect, you can see that exaggeration is unhealthy.
  • Despite such an extensive knowledge, immunity is still a field full of secrets. It fascinates and pushes us to develop new research strategies. Sometimes it resembles a fight with an unknown, invisible enemy. Although lately, thanks to the modern technology, this „battlefield” has been quite well recognized.
    • Bętkowska, Teresa (August–September 2010). "Mistrz niszowej dyscypliny" (PDF). Alma Mater (in Polish). Kraków: Jagiellonian University (126–127): pp. 41–46.
  • I argued with Professor Julian Aleksandrowicz, because he used some therapeutic activities that I did not like, such as the debatable use of suppressive drugs. Once, I criticized him for that in public. I was already appointed a professor, when I had a nice conversation with Professor Aleksandrowicz. I started – „Sir, as a scientist...”. He interrupted me – „There are three categories of people involved in science. Scientists, they are the ones who take the test tubes, they pour something into them. There are scholars, like you. And finally, sir, there are thinkers.” Someone later pointed out that I did not answer him – „You are a thinker, sir.” Aleksandrowicz had something of a thinker in himself.
    • Kobos, Andrzej (2009). Po drogach uczonych (in Polish). 4. Kraków: Polska Akademia Umiejętności, pp. 383–398. ISBN 978-83-7676-021-6.
  • I don't like to stay long outside of Kraków. I was always happy to go back there, just like a cat. Well, that's my mental structure.
    • Bętkowska, Teresa (August–September 2010). Mistrz niszowej dyscypliny (PDF). Alma Mater (in Polish). Kraków: Jagiellonian University (126–127): pp. 41–46.
  • I have peasant origins. It manufactures hardness. One of my grandfathers was a peasant, the other one was a foreman in a cigarette factory. I trained my mind whole life. For example, I studied poems by heart, ranging from Mickiewicz to Mayakovsky. (in answer to the question of how he managed to stay active scientifically for so long)
    • Kobos, Andrzej (2009). Po drogach uczonych (in Polish). 4. Kraków: Polska Akademia Umiejętności, pp. 383–398. ISBN 978-83-7676-021-6.
  • If we look at the highly specialized action of our immune system, we will appreciate into what a brilliant tool evolution has shaped us. Each of us has millions of cells that recognize and destroy foreign antigens. Of course, I mean a healthy, well-functioning immune system, because unfortunately – sometimes it fails.
  • In my childhood, I had natural interests. I got a microscope from someone, I made a telescope myself – a very poor quality, but I could see the moon. First, I wanted to become an astronomer. I read books about astronomy by James Jeans. I even read Arthur S. Eddington, which I did not quite understand. On the other hand, Jan Dembowski's book Natural History of One Protozoan made a huge impression on me. I decided that I would go towards biology, that I would become a physician.
    • Kobos, Andrzej (2009). Po drogach uczonych (in Polish). 4. Kraków: Polska Akademia Umiejętności, pp. 383–398. ISBN 978-83-7676-021-6.
  • I've never been a practicing physician. Except the time when I was called to the army and ordered to heal soldiers. Neither before nor after that did I deal with practical medicine. The more we enter the future, the more laboratory medicine becomes something different than practical medicine. The former one requires specialists of a different format than those who serve at the bedside. It also requires completely different skills. I research allergy, but my experimental animal is a mouse, not a human.
  • Jews are one of the few ethnic groups in which learning is equivalent to praising God. This brings results. One Jewish Nobel Prize winner, when asked where his passion for science came from, explained, that when his friends were returning home, they were asked what the teacher asked them during the day. The Nobel Prize winner mother asked him instead: „What did you ask the teacher today?”. He was taught to ask, not to prepare answers.
  • Like many scientists, I believe that excessive hygienisation of life is responsible for the development of allergies. We avoid contact with microorganisms. Our children live in almost sterile conditions, we wash our hands every now and then. Our immune system hardly comes into contact with bacteria, but it is still in contact with other antigens. So, if the organism gets bored, these other antigens, completely harmless – a protein of milk, fish, or even strawberries – start to be treated as enemies.
  • My mother, whom I loved very much, had a trouble with me. I had very good school certificates. But I tormented her with horribly stinky collections. It was not enough for me at home to have a dog, a cat, a canary, a fish, and even a white mouse. A mouse loved to walk around the apartment, although it lived in a cage. I added the protozoa to this menagerie. Traditional definitions regarded these small organisms – such as, for example, amoebae, flagellates, sponges, algae – as single-celled. What was in these asexually reproducing animals or plants that could intrigue the little boy so much that he would permanently bring this muck (as the mother would say) home?! After all, neither the request nor the threat of this exceptionally tolerant woman, who carried out her home diligently on a daily basis, did help. A trip to the ponds, or actually to the morass at Bonarka district, were exciting for the little boy. And even more, he enjoyed the moments when he could watch what was happening in aquariums, jars or cages for hours.
    • Bętkowska, Teresa (August–September 2010). "Mistrz niszowej dyscypliny" (PDF). Alma Mater (in Polish). Kraków: Jagiellonian University (126–127): pp. 41–46.
  • My professional work connects with intellectual play, with great passion. But I like to read, I'm interested in philosophy, religion and history. And I love dogs! Now I have two friends that take me out for a walk every day.
    • Bętkowska, Teresa (August–September 2010). "Mistrz niszowej dyscypliny" (PDF). Alma Mater (in Polish). Kraków: Jagiellonian University (126–127): pp. 41–46.
  • People spend unnecessarily high amounts of money on drugs or supplements that support immunity (for example, fashionable Japanese ginkgo – there is no evidence that it works), meanwhile they do more harm to themselves by their way of life, for example by inadequate diet.
  • Stupefied parents must be persuaded that by not vaccinating their children, they harm these children and the enitre society. Because, as a significant part of the society will not become resistant to a given pathogen, there is a chance that an epidemic will occur. Now, for example, measles returns. Completely harmless in the childhood (in my time all children went through it and nothing bad happened), it can lead to very serious complications in adult patients.
  • Tadzik Gumiński (later a reader in pediatry), who was just like me fascinated by astronomy, lived at Szpitalna Street, and I lived at Garncarska Street. Not far from our homes, at Podwale, there was an optical store Maruńczak and the Company (in the place where the scientific bookstore is now located). In this optical store, as little kids, we bought lenses and other parts necessary to build a telescope. This telescope, of course, was very simple. But thanks to it, we spent many nights observing the sky, deciphering star systems. It was really great fun.
    • Bętkowska, Teresa (August–September 2010). "Mistrz niszowej dyscypliny" (PDF). Alma Mater (in Polish). Kraków: Jagiellonian University (126–127): pp. 41–46.
  • The Catholic Church has a lot of sins regarding health prevention. I still have a copy of a church magazine from 1905, that condemns the use of vaccines. Until recently, the Church believed that every illness is the result of God's decision. So if the disease attacked, it was necessary to accept it with dignity – as the judgment of the Supreme.
  • The task of immune cells is to recognize foreignness. And fight with it. An implanted foreign organ, or its fragment, is undoubtedly a foreign body. The immune system therefore begins to fight it. However, now immunopressives – and therefore immunosuppressants – are so effective that the rejection of transplants is inhibited.

About Włodzimierz Ptak[edit]

  • He was born in Kraków and decided to tie his scientific path with this city, although he would be welcome by the most prestigious universities in the world, as evidenced by the twenty-five years of romance with Yale University, where he was a visiting professor. In spite of his age (born in 1928) he does not slow down – he is still working scientifically, he publishes articles.
    • Jerzy Vetulani in the proposition of awarding Włodzimierz Ptak the Honoris Gratia Medal of the City of Kraków, 2016.
  • Well, the truth is that although in the 1980s everyone in Poland was in favor of changes in the country or at the university, the path to these changes was seen differently by everyone. If I remembered one of the more turbulent meetings of the Kraków Medical Academy authorities (I was handling this meeting as a journalist) in the most tense time of Solidarity strikes, professor Ptak strongly protested that the proverbial cleaner or even the students would decide on the election of the rector.
    • Teresa Bętkowska (August–September 2010). "Mistrz niszowej dyscypliny" (PDF). Alma Mater (in Polish). Kraków: Jagiellonian University (126–127): pp. 41–46.

External links[edit]

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