Jan Strzałko (1943-2016)


  • Katarzyna A. Kaszycka Instytut Antropologii, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza, Poznań,

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Jan Strzałko, physical anthropologist, intellectualist, history of Polish anthropology


Professor Jan Strzałko – Polish physical anthropologist, longtime Editor-in-Chief of Anthropological Review, scholar and academic of Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, author of numerous articles and textbooks, authority on human biology and ecology, died August 15, 2016 in Poznań. He was born January 31, 1943 in Kleck, Nowogródek Voivodeship (now part of Belarus). His family repatriated to Poland in 1945 from Strzałkowo and settled in Poznań. He studied biology and anthropology at the Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences, Adam Mickiewicz University during years 1960-1965. He completed his master's degree in 1965 (and joined the faculty), a PhD in 1968, and a post-doctoral degree in 1974. The title of Professor was conferred on him in 1989 (after 7 years’ delay, due to unfavorable opinion of the communist authorities of the time). Professor Strzałko was the first Dean of the newly established Department of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University (1984-1985) – his term of office, as well as those of the Rector and Deans of other faculties, was interrupted by the then Minister of Science and Higher Education. Between years 1984-1987 he was head of the Department of Anthropology at the Faculty of Biology, founder and head of the Department of Human Population Ecology at the Institute of Anthropology (1987-2012), and from 1990-1996 Vice-rector for Research at Adam Mickiewicz University. Since 1962 he was a member of the Polish Anthropological Society. After several years working on the editorial body of the Society’s journal – Przegląd Antropologiczny (Anthropological Review), he was appointed member of the Editorial Committee in 1973. In 1978 he became Deputy Editor, and in 1986 Editor-in-Chief of the journal – a position he held for 25 years. Professor Strzałko’s first research interests were mainly the morphology and morphogenesis of the human skeleton, including the factors affecting the variability of the skeleton. He then went on to investigate the research methodology of prehistoric populations – studying bone material obtained from excavations. The third sphere to which he devoted attention was human population ecology and the relationships between biological and cultural evolution. A fourth interest was physical attractiveness – the research being as much anthropological as psychoevolutionary – then a new field.
Last, but not least, was the problem of so-called human races, racial stereotypes and xenophobia. He was editor and co-author of several books, including university textbooks “Antropologia fizyczna” (Physical anthropology) and “Antropologia” (Anthropology), for which he received the awards of the Minister of Higher Education and Technology (1981) and Minister of National Education (1990). He was also Chief Editor of the first Polish translation of the American textbook “BIOLOGY: Campbell, Reece” (2012). For his outstanding achievements in the fields of education and science, and in recognition of the importance of his work, he was awarded the Medal of Commission of National Education (1981) and Knight's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (1990). Jan Strzałko was not only an eminent and creative researcher, but also a gifted academic teacher. He was a guest lecturer in Poland, and abroad – as Visiting Professor at the University of South Africa (UNISA) in Pretoria, in 1993. He supervised over 150 masters students and mentored 9 PhD students. Professor Strzałko had broad interests (from biology and statistics to literature and classical music) and enormous knowledge. He was extremely well-read and one could engage him about almost anything. He popularized the science of evolution, gave comments to the press, radio and TV, shaped and directed the scientific development of young researchers, and was a keen debater and reviewer. At the same time, he was an extremely warm and cultured man – a true gentleman of great intellect. At the end of 2011 he took ill, and yet, his death was sudden and unexpected. He passed away, leaving his wife, daughter, son and grandson. Jan, you are sorely missed.





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