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Chemical witch that disenchanted science

“It began innocently, from a lecture during the first edition of the Lower Silesian Science Festival in 1998,” mentions prof. Jadwiga Sołoduch from the Faculty of Chemistry of Wrocław University of Technology. “I gave there a lecture called From witches, magic, a crystal ball to real science”.

Professor explained how sorcerers and shamans opened the door for real science. They had their place in history – their magic and infusions prepared in the moonlight were the germs of research we know today. From that time on, there was a big breakthrough in science. Mages, sorcerers and shamans were replaced by chemists, medics, physicists and pharmacists. Sołoducho, delivering her lecture, was clad in a spiky hat and cloak with proper props such as a glass ball. It wasn't her last lecture in this subject matter.

A few years later professor talked about the snares of chemical love. She mentioned legendary herbs like lovage and madragora, the job of which was to assure undying love from the person who tried them. “Some herbs have warming-up properties. That's why it is easy to mix up this heat with infatuation,” laughs Professor.

Since that series of lectures Sołoducho's had a nickname “chemical witch”. Professor wasn't afraid of appearing in a cover page of Pryzmat magazine. She looks like a genie in a bottle there. She managed to disenchant chemistry with the help of her look. “What do I hear from the people who come to my lectures? Such things like – They were the most difficult classes in high school and a chemistry teacher was very demanding,” says professor. “But without chemistry the world would be drab, cold and uninteresting. I decided to show them this,” she adds.

Professor claims that chemistry is everywhere. We wouldn't have, let's say, printing or the first techniques of receiving paper without chemistry. Botox, that is botulinum toxin, is used as anti-aging prevention, which is not a daft idea if somebody wants to look younger. However, there is a one condition: this procedure needs to be repeated every few months. Alkaloids that are naturally found in fungi and microorganisms tend to be addictive. The effect of nicotine is a case in point. Two bottles of wine, the content of which is produced by a chemical process, have power to turn two strangers into bosom friends,” jokes prof. Sołoducho.

As it emerged later, the festival classes weren't forgotten. The faculties of Wrocław University of Technology are visited by people who openly say that their interest in sciences was kindled by the first festival lecture. This is so because the negative stereotype of the scientist with a blotchy apron, doing suspicious things in an underground laboratory has been rejected. Young people have noticed that we scientists are innovative, and above all have knowledge we can share with others”, asserts Professor.

Naturally, chemistry is not only about fun. “We need to remember that nature doesn't know any punishments and awards, only consequences,” warns prof. Sołoducho.

Because of this and other things, Professor is going to bring to attention some issues concerning our health. She is intent on lecturing on healthy dieting that plays a crucial role in maintaining vitality and determines the length of life. “Despite not being a Buddhist, I always quote Buddha as saying that “Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the greatest relationship,” says Professor.


Prof. dr hab. Jadwiga Sołoducho, a lecturer at the Faculty of Chemistry of Wrocław University of Technology (Department of Medical Chemistry and Microbiology), a former Deputy Dean for Students Affairs at the Faculty of Chemistry of Wrocław University of Technology. Since 1995 she has co-operated scientifically with prof. Alan Katritzky from the Center for Heterocyclic Compounds in Gainesville, Department of Chemistry, University of Florida and with prof. John Reynolds from the Center for Macromolecular Science and Engineering in Gainesville, University of Florida. Since 1998 she has continuously collaborated with the Lower Silesian Science Festival. At present she is Representative of the Coordinator for LSSF's Region as well as Representative of the Dean for Collaboration with High Schools.

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