|Famous Scholars at the University of Liège||Tweeter|
André Dumont is probably the only geologist to this day whose work has
been the source of inspiration for poets all over the world. A
self-taught man, he first gained renown at the age of 21 with the
publication of his geological description of the province of Liège, in
which he showed the importance of the folding in the layout of rock
formations in southern Belgium. In 1834, he informed the Academy of
his intention to draw a geologic map of Belgium.
Théodore Schwann, who created a highly influential movement in biological research from which current biotechnologies are derived, taught at the University in 1848.
Born in what is now called Rhein-Kreis Neuss, Schwann studied at the Gymnasium of Cologne before attending the University of Bonn, where he studied natural sciences and medicine. One of his professors was Johann Müller, a pioneer of experimental methods in compared anatomy and physiology. He rejoined his teacher in Berlin in 1833 and presented his Ph.D thesis on the importance of oxygen in the development of embryos in chickens.
In October 1835, he discovered a new substance called pepsin.
Scientists already knew that gastric sugar existed and that it
contained acid. Schwann determined that pepsin interacted with the
acid in a fermentation process involved in the digestion of proteins.
In 1836, he studied the phenomena of alcohol and putrefaction
fermentation and proved, before Pasteur, that putrefaction was due to
the development of microorganisms and that heating the air destroyed
their germs. He also discovered the live nature of yeast and the part
it plays in the fermentation of alcohol.
A native of Bruges, Emile de Laveleye went to high school in Paris, then studied philosophy in Leuven and law in Ghent. In 1864, he was given a chair in political economics at the University of Liège. He published several studies on Belgian political parties. He corresponded regularly with British Prime Minister Gladstone and even inspired some of his writings. In his letters, he constantly advocated the neutrality of Belgium and a peaceful solution to the problems facing Europe. In 1873, he published an important work entitled « Des causes actuelles de la guerre en Europe et de l'arbitrage » (On the Existing Reasons for War in Europe and Arbitration). In the foreword, he underlines the extent of the power of public opinion and expresses his fear that Europe could turn into a battlefield by the end of the century. He missed the mark by only a few years.
Zoologist Edouard Van Beneden's main contribution was to shed light on
the mechanisms involved in cell division and egg fertilization by the
sperm. He showed that the virgin egg is a living cell detached from
the maternal organism and made capable of multiplication through
Born in the province of Luxemburg near the border, Godefroid Kurth
spoke German until the age of eight. He received his education in
French, graduating from the Ecole normale des Humanités de Liège
(Teacher Training College) in 1868. After serving as French teacher at
the Athénée de Liège from 1869 until 1872, he succeeded Adolphe Borgnet
as Chair of Medieval History and History of Belgium before he obtained
a Ph.D. in historical sciences in 1873. While Germany had been
offering more practical courses for some time, the teaching of history
in Belgium remained essentially theoretical. Godefroid Kurth was the
first to offer a history course at the University of Liège. This
revolutionary shift was soon espoused by other universities. In 1906,
Kurth left his teaching position and was appointed to the Belgian
Institute of History in Rome.
Walthère Spring, a native of Liège, took courses taught by Kékulé and
Clausius in Bonn. He taught organic chemistry in Liège in 1877 and
mineral chemistry in 1880. Convinced as he was that engineers needed
solid basic science training, he helped set up a technical faculty (in
1893), which would deliver the degree of chemical engineer. An
inveterate mountain climber, he was also a wonderful teacher whose
lectures attracted large numbers. As reported by Paul Dresse, he would
always end his lectures with the same statement : « And always keep in
mind atoms are indivisible! » Sensing that the still fledgling science
of chemistry would play an important role in the economy, he dedicated
the remaining years of his life to the foundation of the Institute of
Chemistry, which would house several state-of-the-art laboratories.
Describing the Institute of General Chemistry which would bear his
name, he wrote with terrifying foresight:
Léon Frédéricq was born in Ghent in 1851. He was appointed professor at the University of Liège in 1879 and given the chair of physiology previously held by Théodore Schwann.
After finishing his studies in Ghent, he met with scientists throughout Europe in an attempt to further the development of experimental physiology. He returned from these encounters with a solid experimental method and the conviction that the living world was a intrinsic part of physics and chemistry. His reading of Darwin led him to study basic biological mechanisms in marine animals and to the discovery of reflex amputation or autonomy in crabs. He also ascertained that octopus blood contained hemocyanin, a substance which turns blue when in contact with air and which acts as hemoglobin in vertebrates. He extended his research to the physiology of circulation and breathing, and used his findings on the equilibrium of the internal environment as a starting point for an investigation into the key concept of regulation.
The Institute of Physiology, the building of which he helped oversee
from 1885 until 1888, soon attained international renown, which in turn
fostered increasing collaboration with foreign universities.
International physiology congresses were inaugurated so that
physiologists – Europeans in particular – could meet and discuss
experimental demonstrations: The first congress – which Frédéricq
attended – took place in Basel in 1888. Three years later, he welcomed
102 physiologists to Liège as President of the Congress.
Internationally known as the Father of the Walloon School of Romance Philology, Maurice Wilmotte was a brilliant student at the University of Liège and also studied in Paris and in Germany. Founder of the journal Le Moyen Age (The Middle Ages), he taught French at the Ecole normale (teacher's college) and Romance Philology at the University of Liège for five years before being appointed professor. He subsequently inaugurated the Department of Romance Languages and Literature. Founder of the Revue wallonne, his ambition was to promote all aspects of Walloon culture. He was also the founder of a publishing house called La Renaissance du livre (l923).
The Cointe Observatory became famous worldwide thanks to Polydore
Swings. Following stays in Warsaw and Chicago, Swings was convinced
that astrophysics could only benefit from the progress made in
molecular spectroscopy, which he was responsible for introducing at the
Cointe Institute of Astrophysics. Rosenfeld initially collaborated on
this project, with Boris Rosen joining them in 1933. After spending
the war years in the United States, he proceeded to reorganize the
laboratory in 1948. The Liège group of astrophysicists, comprised of
Swings, Marcel Migeotte and Paul Ledoux among others, enjoyed a
first-rate reputation. Beginning in 1949, Swings organized the Liège
international astrophysics symposium . Liège opened a laboratory of
solar spectrography at the International Scientific Station of
Jungfraujoch (Switzerland) and installed a telescope at the observatory
Paul Ledoux (on the right)
Paul Ledoux worked first with Polydor Swings, then went to the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics in Oslo to deepen his knowledge. Unable to come back to Belgium because of World War II, he spent some time in Stockholm before going to the Yerkes Observatory in Chicago to work with Nobel Prize winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. His works address the stability of stars; indeed, he formulated some of the first steps in the theory of the evolution of stars, imagining a theoretical convective core model that became progressively poorer in hydrogen. A group of brilliant theoreticians soon joined him, bringing significant contributions to the problems related to the internal structure, evolution and stability of stars.
Jean-Marie Ghuysen graduated from the School of Pharmacy in 1947.
After receiving his Ph.D in chemistry in 1951, he was recruited by
Professor Maurice Welsh to work at the newly founded Department of
Microbiology at the University of Liège. At that time, the discovery of
penicillin and the concept of antibiosis were radically altering
medical practice. After years of hard work, the young chemist was
successful in separating a series of agents having the astounding
capacity to dissolve living bacteria from actinomycetin (a complex
secreting an organism present in all soils). On the basis of his
observations, he elucidated, step by step, the chemical structure of
the bacterial wall.