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The continuity of the historical development of the Polish state was broken off in 1795, when the neighbouring powers Austria, Prussia and Russia finally divided the territory of Poland between themselves. Between 1795 and 1918, Poland did not exist as a sovereign state and this historical circumstance essentially affected its entire social and cultural life. Foreign governments made considerable efforts to perpetuate this with their policies, aiming to deprive Poles of their national identity and assimilate former Polish citizens into their own societies.1 In the second half of the nineteenth century, the only Polish higher education establishments still in existence were those in the territory of the Austrian partition (Cracow, Lemberg). In other Polish territories, Polish schools were closed and partially replaced by Russian and German schools. For this reason, young Poles often studied at foreign universities. Many Poles studied chemistry in Riga, Dorpat, Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev as well as at German and Swiss universities. Concern for the development and dissemination of science in the mother tongue was part of the struggle by Poles to survive as a nation. The foundation of scientific societies was a good means towards this end, and such institutions were already relatively abundant at the turn of the nineteenth century.2 Societies were formed thanks to the financial support of individuals and in defiance of the policies of the partitioners. Accordingly, their activity was not always overt or legal. Such illegal groups were particularly numerous in the zone ruled by Russia, where freedom of association was most oppressively restrained.

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