Born on 7th May 1818 in Tarnów, Józef Oettinger was a doctor, historian of medicine as well as the first professor of the Jagiellonian University of Jewish descent.
At the early age of 5, he lost both of his parents. He was then taken care of by his uncle, Jakub Adler – a Krakow merchant who lived in Krakow’s Kazimierz. After graduating from gymnasium, he enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University, only to change the faculty and begin studying medicine two years later. In 1843, he obtained the degree of doctor of medicine and started working in the Jewish hospital in Krakow a year later. During the “Springtime of Nations” he became a member of the National Committee established by patriots, representing the progressive Jewish intellectuals. A great supporter of the idea of fighting together with the Poles for the independence of the homeland as well as the universal equality in rights of all, without any exception regarding the origin or faith. At the same time, he lectured on the history of medicine at the University. In 1863, the Faculty of Medicine of the Jagiellonian University supported his habilitation. However, the Viennese authorities refused to approve it because as a delegate of Krakow’s Jews in Vienna, he spread the word about the need to revive a common homeland for the Poles and the Jews, which was considered a sign of disloyalty. As a result of intense reforms of the country undertaken by Franz Joseph I, his habilitation was approved in 1869, while he was awarded the title of professor in 1873.
Józef Oettinger died on 2nd October 1895 and was buried at the Jewish Cemetery at Miodowa street in Krakow.
Photo courtesy of the Jagiellonian Library.