Passing of Prof. Jerzy Jurkiewicz

It is with deep sorrow that we learned on November 30, 2021, of the passing of Prof. Jerzy Jurkiewicz, one of the initiators, a founding member and former Vice President of the Polish Society on Relativity. He was 74 years old.

Jerzy Jurkiewicz was born on July 22, 1947, in Krakow. In 1970 he received a master’s degree in physics, and in 1975 a doctoral degree in physics at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow (JU). In 1987 Jerzy Jurkiewicz was awarded a postdoctoral degree (habilitation), and in 1997 he became a full professor. In 2009-2012 he was the Dean of the Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science at the JU; for many years he was the head of the Theory of Complex Systems Department of the Institute of Physics at the JU, the founder and head of the Mark Kac Complex Systems Research Center at the JU and a member of the Senate of the JU. In 2018 he was awarded the “Jagiellonian Laurel” (“Laur Jagielloński”) for outstanding scientific achievements. Professor Jerzy Jurkiewicz was an active member of the Division III of Science and Technology of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences (PAU), a member of the PAU Board of Directors in years 2018-2021 and a chairman of the PAU Complex Systems Commission. He was the initiator and chairman of the Marian Smoluchowski Krakow Scientific Consortium, which was granted the status of National Leading Scientific Centre (KNOW) in physics in 2012.

Prof. Jerzy Jurkiewicz was one of the most eminent Polish theoretical physicists, a world-renowned scientist, an expert in the fields of quantum gravity, strong interactions, complex systems and random matrices, mathematical physics and its applications, and numerical simulations of quantum systems using the so-called lattice regularization.

Prof. Jurkiewicz became famous, together with Prof. Jan Ambjorn and Prof. Renate Loll, as the creator of the model of Causal Dynamical Triangulations (CDT). Earlier, together with Prof. Ambjorn, he also invented a model of the so-called Euclidean Dynamical Triangulations. Both models are an attempt at a non-perturbative formulation of the theory of quantum gravity aimed at unifying two fundamental areas of theoretical physics – quantum mechanics and the theory of gravity. The CDT model has proven to be one of the most promising research directions in the quest for a theory of quantum gravity, allowing the analysis of quantum-gravitational effects using advanced computer simulations. In particular, the research group led by Prof. Jurkiewicz succeeded in showing the existence of a correct semiclassical limit of the CDT model, consistent with Einstein’s theory of gravity, was one of the first to observe the existence of scale dependence of the effective dimension of quantum spacetime (so-called dimensional reduction), demonstrated the presence of higher order phase transitions in CDT, which gives hope for the formulation of a continuum limit of this model, analyzed the influence of spacetime topology on the phase structure of CDT, demonstrated the existence of a non-trivial effect of matter fields on the topology of quantum space-time. In addition to his work on the theory of quantum gravity, Prof. Jerzy Jurkiewicz was also very active in the field of research on lattice QCD and on random matrix theory and its application to the analysis of complex systems, including the study of physical phenomena, economics, financial markets, biological phenomena, analysis of random networks and surfaces.

Prof. Jurkiewicz enjoyed great recognition in the international scientific community. He was repeatedly invited to the world’s leading scientific centers. Among longer research stays, it is worth mentioning the University of Utrecht (1979-80, 1984-86), the University of Marseille (1982), the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva (1983), the University of Paris-Sud in Orsay (1983-84, 1996), the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen (1990-91, 1994-95, 1997-98). Jerzy Jurkiewicz cooperated with and was a friend of many recognized scientists, among others with Prof. Jan Ambjorn, Prof. Renate Loll, Prof. Maciej Nowak, Prof. Zdzisław Burda, Prof. Andrzej Krzywicki, Prof. Chris Korthals-Altes, Prof. Gerardemus ‘t Hooft, Prof. Martinus Veltman. He was repeatedly invited to organizing committees of prestigious international scientific conferences and was a plenary speaker at key scientific conferences in the field of gravitational, random matrix or complex systems research.

Professor Jurkiewicz was also an extremely active organizer and leader of research projects. He was, among others, the coordinator of a significant European grant COCOS (Correlations in Complex Systems), the head of research groups in European programmes (EUROGRID, ENRAGE projects), co-organizer of the European Science Foundation project, member of the COPIRA Centre of Excellence, principal investigator of numerous KBN and NCN grants, including NCN MAESTRO.

Prof. Jurkiewicz’s research achievement includes over 150 papers published in the world’s best scientific journals and cited over 5500 times. During his scientific career he has lectured extensively both at home and abroad on, among others, mathematical methods of physics, numerical computation methods, quantum field theory and advanced quantum mechanics, the study of complex systems. Prof. Jurkiewicz has promoted five Ph.D. students, and his alumni have already received professorships and habilitation degrees.

Jerzy Jurkiewicz was not only an excellent scientist but also a great colleague and collaborator. He was a person of great kindness and extremely deep knowledge and scientific intuition, a true mentor to several generations of physicists.

For his achievements and contributions, he was awarded the Golden Cross of Merit by the President of Poland.

Professor Jerzy Jurkiewicz passed away on November 30, 2021. He leaves a grieving wife Elżbieta, daughters Anna and Katarzyna, and grandchildren.