Ignacy Łukasiewicz - Inventor and visionary
Ignacy Lukasiewicz (according to his birth-certificate: Jan Józef Ignacy Lukasiewicz) - born on 8th March 1822, died 7 January 1882 - an apothecary, oil lamp inventor and, at first place, the father of petroleum industry, also a revolutionary and independence activist.
He was the first man in the world who took advantage of petroleum for industrial use.
As a highly efficient organiser, he made a large fortune from petroleum. He was also a famous welfare worker. He promoted establishing orchards, construction of roads and bridges, schools, hospitals, etc. - he sponsored many initiatives from his own fortune, fighting against poverty and alcoholism in his region. He founded a number of provident and pension funds. His whole life was connected with the Podkarpacie region. He did very much for this region and was recognised as one of the biggest philanthropist. People said that all roads in the Western Little Poland were paved with Łukasiewicz’s gold. He augmented relations between workers and employers in the growing petroleum industry which differed from the standards of predatory capitalism in other regions overtaken by the oil rush. Ordinary workers called him ‘Father Ignacy’. He strove for the growth of the petroleum industry - indirectly by persuading and helping other people to establish other companies. However, when looking at his achievements, it seems that such a great person is rather neglected and forgotten.
It would be very invidious and exceptionally unfair if we present Łukasiewicz only as a designer of the first oil lamp, because as a human being and a Polish citizen he was also someone special. Much earlier he was engaged in preparing the Kraków Uprising, the police watched him permanently and on the day before the revolution he was arrested and sent to prison. Łukasiewicz left the jail in 1848.
He believed that everyone should have the right to live in a free and independent country. Wherever he was, whatever he did, everything had a utilitarian overtone, which originated from his deep humanitarianism.
The Gorlice oilfields, today almost forgotten or intended to remain unknown, left a lasting impression on the whole of Łukasiewicz’s life and he threw himself into the problems of this region and society.
Łukasiewicz was determined to help the poor people, he started to make local peasants happy by sinking oil wells, modifying boreholes and comparing his own capabilities with the world’s achievements in this field. In 1862 he introduced American hammer drills in his oil wells. In this way he wanted to increase the output and to multiply profits. The latter were especially needed to establish so called Fraternity Banks - the first social security companies aimed at helping miners in the case of sickness and offering pension security.
During his life, Łukasiewicz was renowned for his philanthropy. People said that all roads in the Western Little Poland were paved with Łukasiewicz’s gold. Approximately 1000 provident funds had a small oil lamp in their logos. In this way he went to war against loan sharks and moreover on all innkeepers inducing heavy drinking among the people. He launched the fight against alcoholism and his vital position was an excellent example of a sober life. We can write much more about his public-spirited passions based on hard economical calculations and his kind-heartedness, but we will just say, that in token of gratitude for what he did for Galician Polish peasants, he was elected to be a member of the Galician Parliament which was a place where his views could see the light of day.
When the insurrection of January 1863 broke out, Łukasiewicz provided financial support to freedom fighters and offered safe harbour to men who were at risk of arrest. Some of them were employed in his oil wells, while the others travelled in groups overseas, to the United States and Canada and he paid for their journey and gave them some money to start a new life away from there homeland.
Due to the success of petroleum the profits from his company, Ignacy Łukasiewicz became a wealthy citizen. He established several oil wells in the Podkarpacie region, a sanatorium in Bóbrka and a church in Zręcin near Krosno.
The day of Father Ignacy’s death was a day of general mourning in Galicia Many lamps were lit at night in honour of the man, who wanted to empower the peasants. When holidaying in Canada we strongly recommend that you visit the antique shops where you can find many lamps resembling the first one, invented by Łukasiewicz.