Blue & Yellow
Blue & Yellow: uncovering Ukrainian innovation, creativity and science
July 1, 2022

It’s clear the world is not closely familiar with Ukrainian culture, art, creativity or science.

Historically, many Ukrainian achievements have been stolen or appropriated by hostile neighboring empires. Others have been destroyed by Soviet propaganda. Others still have been shrouded by geo-political circumstances. 

Whatever the case, it’s high time that we change the narrative and show the true creativity, imagination and skill of Ukrainian people.
To that end, we’re launching a series of short stories about talented Ukrainians who have advanced technology and science to new heights.

We’re kicking off the series with scientist, author and inventor Ivan Puluj, whose contributions to science helped transform medicine as we know it. 

Ivan Puluj — Polymath and Inventor, 1845 – 1918

Ivan Puluj, 1845 to 1918, is a Ukrainian physicist, electrical engineer, inventor, publicist, and was the first person to translate the Bible into Ukrainian. 

Puluj studied first at the Ternopil gymnasium, and then later at the University of Vienna. He worked in the physics laboratory of Victor von Leang, teaching physics, mechanics and mathematics at the naval academy in Fiume (now Rijeka, Croatia).

Later, the scientist defended his dissertation on “Dependence of the internal friction of gases on temperature” and earned a doctorate from the University of Strasbourg.

Arguably Puluj’s most significant scientific works were his studies on the nature and properties of cathode rays, which would later be called X-Rays. The results were published in the articles “Reports of the Vienna Academy of Sciences.”

The discovery of X-Rays is not attributed to Puluj but to the scientist Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen. Roentgen published a study on X-Rays only 6 weeks before Puluj’s findings were released.

Puluj is not credited with the discovery in the scientific community. It cannot ignore the fact, however, that the “Puluj Lamp” — a device to measure X-Rays — was invented 14 years before Roentgen’s paper.

The importance of this contribution to science and medicine is undeniable, and some scientists, such as Albert Einstein, recognized this.

Here is what Einstein wrote after the incident:

«I don’t have anything to comfort you, what has happened cannot be changed. Let the satisfaction that you put a piece into the epochal discovery stays with you. Is this not enough? But if we consider it rationally – there is a logic. Who is behind you, Rusyns — what culture, what actions? It’s unpleasant for you to listen to this … And for Röntgen stands the whole of Europe»

Albert Einstein

Puluj was a strong practical scientist and made many other discoveries.

While teaching at the University of Vienna, he created a device for measuring the mechanical equivalent of heat, which became well known in the scientific world. Puluj was awarded a silver medal at the 1878 World Exhibition in Paris.

From 1883 to 1884, Puluj worked in the Austrian city of Steyr as a consultant and director of a lighting lamp factory of his own design. He also participated in the opening of several power plants in Austria-Hungary.

Interestingly, Puluj helped complete the translation of the Bible into Ukrainian, together with Panteleimon Kulish and Ivan Nechuy-Levytsky.

Puluj was highly regarded, drew many scientific accolades and was a member of various scientific societies. In 1916, he was even offered to become the Minister of Education of Austria but refused.

Even while abroad, Puluj actively supported Ukrainian culture and scientists, and also hired Ukrainian language teachers for his children.

Such inspiring stories of bold, innovative Ukrainians help us to thoroughly understand the strength of the nation and its people.

The name of Ivan Puluj is widely known in Ukraine. His name is given to universities and streets in cities across Ukraine. Most prestigiously, the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine awards the Puluj Prize every two years for outstanding work in the field of physics.

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