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Antoni Grabowski

  Antoni Grabowski (born June 11, 1857 in Nowe Dobre near Chełmno, died July 4, 1921 in Warsaw) was a Polish chemical engineer, and an activist of the early Esperanto movement. His translations had an influential impact on the development of Esperanto into a language of literature.

Education and career

  Soon after his birth, Grabowski's family moved from Nowe Dobre to Thorn (Toruń). Due to his parents' poverty, Grabowski had to start working soon after leaving junior school. Nevertheless he prepared himself, driven by a great desire to learn, to take the entrance exam for grammar school (Gymnasium), which he passed with flying colours. At the Nicolaus Copernicus School in Thorn he demonstrated his knowledge to be far greater than that of others of his own age and was twice moved into a higher class. In 1879, the family's financial situation improved and, after his Abitur exam, Grabowski studied philosophy and natural science at the University of Breslau (Wrocław).

Afterwards he worked as a practical chemical engineer in Zawiercie and a few locations which now are part of the Czech Republic, and finally as Manager of a textile factory in Ivanovo-Voznesensk 250 km north-east of Moscow.

Meanwhile he continued his in-depth studies into chemical problems. He was known among experts in the field throughout Europe for a multitude of inventions and technological innovations. Grabowski was appointed to the commission which was tasked with drawing up Polish technical terminology. A few years later in 1906 he published his "Słownik chemiczny", the first Polish chemistry dictionary.

Esperanto and literature

Already during his university career, Antoni Grabowski was developing a far-reaching literary interest. Thus he became a member of the Slavic Literary Society (Towarzystwo Literacko-Słowianskie). But his endeavour in no way was limited to Polish language and literature; gradually he learnt a considerable number of languages and became a true polyglot. Later, apart from his mother tongue, he was able to speak nine additional languages and passively use at least another fifteen. From this background, it is not surprising that as a student Grabowski was also interested in the idea of an international language.

At that time this role involved the Volapük language, so this was what Grabowski learnt. However when he visited Johann Martin Schleyer, the author of this language project, he saw that even he was unable to speak Volapük fluently. It was apparent that this language was unsuitable for everyday use and in the end both spoke German to each other. After this disappointment, Grabowski gave up his work on Volapük, however he did not give up on the idea of an international constructed language.

In 1887 he studied the booklet "Dr. Esperanto's. International Language. Introduction & Complete Grammar" published in the same year by Ludwik Zamenhof, in which he put forward his own language project which was soon to become known by the name "Esperanto". Grabowski was impressed by the transparent structure of Esperanto and by its capacity for expression which could be picked up astonishingly quickly. He traveled to Warsaw to visit Zamenhof, giving rise to the first oral conversation in Esperanto.

Just like Zamenhof, Grabowski understood the important influence of literature on the development of languages, and especially for Esperanto, which by then was on the way to changing from a language project into a language which would be fully functional in all areas of life. Grabowski was already working on this: in 1888 he published his translation of The Snowstorm by Aleksandr Pushkin, followed in 1889 by his translation of Goethe's Die Geschwister to name just the first publications.

During the early 1890s, Grabowski became unsatisfied by the slow spread of Esperanto. Believing that the reason for this was imperfections in the language, he pleaded for reform. However in the vote that took place in 1894, he voted against reforms and from then on stuck to the basis of the language, the so-called Fundamento de Esperanto.

Grabowski was a long-standing chairman of the Warsaw Esperanto Society founded in 1904 and of the Polish Esperanto Society founded in 1908. In the same year he became director of the Grammar Section of the Esperanto Academy. He published articles and gave lectures on Esperanto and organized Esperanto language courses.

In the years 1908–1914 Grabowski was in charge of the first courses for a few schools in Warsaw. In an article in 1908 he described the exceptional suitability of Esperanto as an introduction to language learning (see Propedeutic value of Esperanto). Therein he showed with concrete examples the extent to which learning Esperanto first improved learning of French and Latin (a claim which seemed inconceivable to the public of that time).

The anthology From The Parnassus Of The Peoples published in 1913 contained 116 poems representing 30 languages and cultures. Six of the poems were composed in Esperanto, the remaining 110 being translated.

Due to events in World War I, Grabowski was separated from the members of his famiy who had fled to Russia. Ill and isolated, he remained behind in Warsaw. There he translated the Polish National epic Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. While working on his translation which was precise and faithful to the original form he put the latent potential of the constructed language to the test and thereby gave significant impetus to the further development of poetry composed in Esperanto.

In the meantime he had begun to suffer from a chronic heart condition but could not afford the necessary medical treatment. He lived at that time in oppressive poverty. When his family returned after the end of the war his body was almost emaciated. Nevertheless he continued his work on Esperanto until his death from a heart attack in 1921.


  • Online readable works of Grabowski

This article is based on an article of the Esperanto Wikipedia and was translated via the corresponding GermanАнтоні Грабоўскі

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Antoni_Grabowski". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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