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Karol Olszewski was born in borniszow near Tarnow. Olszewski was a graduate of Kazimierz Brodziński High School in Tarnów (I Liceum Ogólnokształcące im. Kazimierza Brodzińskiego). He studied at Kraków's Jagiellonian University in the departments of mathematics and physics, and chemistry and biology. He carried out his first experiments using a personally improved compressor, compressing and condensing carbon dioxide. He took part in uprising in Poland and was arrested for his action and was imprisoned for several months.
In 1886, he entered the University of Krakow, as an assistant to the chemistry professor Czyrnianski. He succeeded in liquefying and solidifying carbon dioxide. He went to Heidelberg in 1872 where he studied uder Bunsen, Kirchoff and Blum. He received his degree "Insigni Cum Laude ". He returned to Krakow and met with Wroblewski, a newly appointed professor in physics. Karol's redesign of existing equipment allowed them to liquefy oxygen. April 9, 1883 a report was sent to the Academy of Science in Paris and is recognized as the date of the liquefaction of oxygen. Shortly after, the headstrong scientists parted company.
Olszewski defended his doctoral dissertation at Heidelberg University, then returned to Kraków, where he was made profesor nadzwyczajny (associate professor). In 1883, Zygmunt Wróblewski and Karol Olszewski were the first in the world to liquefy oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in a stable state (not, as had been the case up to then, in a dynamic state in the transitional form as vapor). Chemist, physicist and expert of low temperatures; he also discovered a method of hydrogen liquefaction and constructed machinery for that purpose, which enabled him to reach the then-lowest world temperature, -225 C.
In 1895 he liquefied argon. He failed only to liquefy then-newly discovered helium. In 1896, on hearing of Wilhelm Röntgen's work with X-rays, within a few days in early February Olszewski replicated it, thus initiating the university's department of radiology.