Professor Jerzy Vetulani, honorary doctor of the Silesian Medical Academy, honorary doctor of the Medical University of Lodz, active member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Science, corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, honorary member of the Indian Academy of Neuroscience, honorary fellow of the Oxford Neurological Society, vice-president of the scientific council of the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, professor at Małopolska Higher Vocational School, professor in the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Jerzy Vetulani received M.Sc. in Biology (1957) and in Chemistry (1962) from Jagiellonian University in Kraków. His scientific career started in March 1956 as assistant-volunteer at the Department of Pharmacology of the P.A.S. (later renamed the Institute of Pharmacology, P.A.S.) in Kraków and he was connected with this Institute throughout his career. After receiving his Ph.D. in natural sciences in 1966, granted at the Ludwik Hirszfeld Institute of Immunology and Experimental Therapy, P.A.S. in Wrocław, Vetulani was awarded a Riker Scholarship and spent a year at Cambridge University (UK).
Jerzy Vetulani's thesis for professorship (habilitation) concerned interactions among neuroleptics and compounds disturbing the metabolism of biogenic amines. After the submission of his thesis, Vetulani joined Prof. Fridolin Sulser at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, US (1973-1975). They investigated the generation of cyclic AMP in the brain during chronic administration of antidepressants. The results of these studies led to formulate a novel hypothesis of action of antidepressant treatment, the so-called “beta-downregulation”. It was the first hypothesis postulating that psychotropic drugs act by inducing adaptive changes in the nervous system and brought him international recognition (the Nature paper of Vetulani and Sulser, 1975, became a classic with more than 560 citations).
Returning to Poland in 1976, prof. Vetulani became a Head of a newly formed Department of Biochemistry at the Institute of Pharmacology P.A.S. in Kraków, remaining in this post until the end of 2006. From 1994 until 2001 he served as a Science Director of the Institute and since 2002, he served as the vice-president of the research council of the Institute. During his tenure at the Department of Biochemistry, he coordinated three groups investigating (i) psychopharmacological aspects of action of tetrahydroisoqionoline derivatives as potential neuroprotective agents, (ii) molecular aspects of chronic administration of antidepressants, (iii) various aspects of memory and learning and drug addiction. Vetulani’s discoveries brought him numerous awards, among them the prestigious International Anna Monika Award (2nd class) for studies on the mechanism of antidepressant action of electroconvulsive shock (1983), the Copernicus Award (1996), the Jerzy Konorski Award (2001), the Prime Minister Award for scientific achievements (2003), Knight’s Cross of Polonia Restituta (2004), Jędrzej Śniadecki Medal for the entirety of research in the field of psychopharmacology (2006) and several other awards and distinctions.
Vetulani was an inspiring teacher at all his appointments, i.e., Józef Dietel Małopolska Higher Vocational School, the Faculty of Biology and Earth Sciences of the Jagiellonian University, Medical School for Foreigners at the Medical College of the JU, Institute of Psychology at the Faculty of Philosphy of the JU. He became recognized to a popular public through his talent to popularize science. In 1981, he became the Editor-in-Chief of the oldest Polish popular science magazine, Wszechświat, staying at this post until 2001. In 2011, he became the vice-President of Wszechświat’s Scientific Council. Vetulani was a member of European Dana Alliance for Brain (EDAB) – an organization promoting the knowledge about the brain, and organizer and lecturer in the Brain Awareness Weeks in Kraków.
Prof. Vetulani was socially active on diverse fields. In his youth, he was one of the pioneers of famous “Piwnica pod Baranami” cabaret. At the 80’s he was engaged in Solidarity national movement and was a member of the underground Regional Board of Solidarity Małopolska which dealt mainly with program issues and the revival of Solidarity after the 1981 martial law period.