Marcin Odlanicki Poczobutt

Marcin Odlanicki Poczobutt

Belarusian and Lithuanian educator, astronomer, mathematician.
Date of Birth: 30.10.1728
Country: Lithuania

  1. Biography of Martin Poczobut-Odlanicki
  2. Education and Career
  3. Contributions to Astronomy
  4. Legacy

Biography of Martin Poczobut-Odlanicki

Martin Poczobut-Odlanicki was a Belarusian and Lithuanian enlightener, astronomer, and mathematician. He was born on October 30, 1728, in the estate near the village of Slomiancy, close to Grodno. He came from the ancient noble family of Poczobuts.

Education and Career

Poczobut-Odlanicki studied at the Jesuit College in Grodno from 1740 to 1743. In 1745, he joined the Jesuit order and completed his novitiate in Vilnius. He continued his education at the Seminary in Slutsk and the Jesuit College in Polotsk. He then studied philosophy at the Jesuit Academy and the University of Vilnius from 1753 to 1754 and developed an interest in astronomy, which led him to Prague to further his knowledge.

Returning to Vilnius in 1756, Poczobut-Odlanicki continued his studies in theology and astronomy. In 1761, he obtained a degree in theology and traveled abroad again to observe astronomical observatories in Marseille, Avignon, Naples, and other cities. After returning to Vilnius in 1764, he received a master's degree in philosophy and liberal arts.

Poczobut-Odlanicki became a professor at the Jesuit Academy and University of Vilnius in 1764. He later reorganized the institution into the Main School of Vilnius and served as its rector from 1780 to 1803. In 1778, he was elected a corresponding member of the French Academy of Sciences. During the 1794 uprising, Poczobut-Odlanicki was part of the temporary government of the rebels in Lithuania and played a role in the Educational Commission, which reformed the education system in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Contributions to Astronomy

Poczobut-Odlanicki completed the construction of the Vilnius Astronomical Observatory, which was initiated by Tomasz Zebrowski. He became its first director from 1765 to 1807. He was dedicated to acquiring the latest astronomical equipment for the observatory and conducted practical observations for 39 years. He recorded the positions and movements of celestial bodies in handwritten journals.

Poczobut-Odlanicki made significant astronomical observations, including those of comets, asteroids, solar and lunar eclipses, and the planet Mercury. In 1773, he calculated the positions of 16 stars near the constellation Scutum Sobieskii. In 1777, he formed the Taurus Poniatovii constellation from small stars near Eridanus, naming it after the last Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski.

Aside from astronomy, Poczobut-Odlanicki also engaged in geodesy and cartography. He established the precise geographical coordinates of Vilnius and Grodno, as well as improved the longitude of Vilnius. His observations during a solar eclipse in August 1793 led to the refinement of geographical coordinates and the positioning of the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania on European maps.


Poczobut-Odlanicki's contributions to science and education were significant. He was a respected figure in the academic community and a proponent of Enlightenment ideas. He wrote poems in Latin and Russian, expressing his opposition to wars. His correspondence with Jan Śniadecki reveals his enlightening views.

A memorial plaque in Polish, honoring Martin Poczobut-Odlanicki, is located on the wall of the Western Wing of the Observatory Court in the Vilnius University complex. It highlights his achievements as a highly educated and fair-minded individual, an organizer of the astronomical observatory, and a devoted rector of the Main School.

Furthermore, a crater on the far side of the moon has been named after Poczobut-Odlanicki in recognition of his contributions to astronomy.