John of Głogów

Jan of Głogów
Another John of Glogau had died in 1377

John of Głogów (Polish: Jan z Głogowa, Jan Głogowczyk; German: Johann von Schelling von Glogau) (c. 1445 – 11 February 1507) was a notable Polish polyhistor at the turn of the Middle Ages and Renaissance—a philosopher, geographer and astronomer at the University of Krakow.


John was born into the Schelling family in Głogów (in German, Glogau) in the Lower Silesian Duchy of Głogów, which from 1331 had belonged to Bohemia and thus, during his lifetime, to the Holy Roman Empire. He variously styled himself Johannes Glogoviensis, Glogerus, de Glogovia and Glogowita; but while he may have been of German extraction, he never used the name "Schelling."

Collegiate Church, Głogów

He began his education in a local school at the Collegiate Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. As the scion of a wealthy bourgeois family, he could continue his education at one of the best universities in that part of Europe — the University of Krakow. He embarked on his studies there, at age 16, in 1462 (the first documented date in his life). After three years he obtained his baccalaureate, and after two more — his licentiate. In 1468 he received his Magister Artium degree, the equivalent of a Doctor of Philosophy degree. This was but the beginning of a forty-year academic career. He would later also obtain a baccalaureate in theology.

John of Głogów was an adherent of the Cologne Thomism, a philosophical school that upheld the legacy of Thomas Aquinas. But while siding in some questions with Thomas, in others he sided with Albertus Magnus.

From 1468 John lectured in the Department of Arts at the University of Krakow, in all seven liberal arts. His greatest passions were grammar, Aristotelian logic, physics, physiology, and astronomy. In 1478 and 1489–90 he was dean of the department of arts. He wrote textbooks covering the complete range of philosophical knowledge at the time. His numerous extant works cover grammar, logic, philosophy, geography, astronomy and astrology. He won fame in the latter field with his "prognostications"; in one of these, he predicted the advent of a "black friar" who would bring disarray to Christianity. The friar would later be identified with the Augustinian monk, Martin Luther.

Copernicus (statue before Collegium Novum)

John of Głogów wrote a work entitled Introductio in artem numerandi (Latin: Introduction to the Art of Using Numbers; 1497). He wrote commentaries to Ptolemy's Cosmography. He is thought to have been one of the teachers of Nicolaus Copernicus, who enrolled at the University of Krakow in 1491.

John authored 60 volumes, mainly astronomical and astrological. His grammar was used in Kraków schools for over a century. He is reputed to have been the first in Poland to note the discovery of America.

John's works show little originality, but his erudition was impressive.

His first two years of lecturing had given him entree to the Kraków Academy's Collegium Minus (the Lesser College), and from 1484 he had been a member of the Collegium Maius (the Greater College). Collegiate membership entailed a semi-monastic life and the observation of an uncommonly austere regime. He devoted his income to charitable works.

John took a special interest in students from his native Silesia, building and operating a dormitory for them. Between 1433 and 1510, 120 scholars from Głogów matriculated at Kraków—one of the largest groups, alongside those from Wrocław.

John of Głogów, an "ornament of Kraków University," died in Kraków on 11 February 1507 and was interred at St. Florian's Church.

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