There is no doubt that Professor Kolos belonged to the founding fathers of quantum chemistry, and quickly earned international recognition and reputation. In particular he pioneered what we now term ab inito quantum chemistry – that is computational chemistry that derives only from first principles, and provides answers with unprecedented accuracy. His seminal work on the hydrogen molecule – not only brought about a new understanding of the chemical bond, both conceptually vital and quantitatively accurate – but had a tremendous psychological impact on what was from then on deemed achievable in chemistry by modelling with computers. Kolos challenged the experimental measurement and it turned out that he, rather than the experiment, was right. Henceforth, quantum chemistry had to be looked upon as a dependable tool.
However, at least as important as his achievements was the fact that he was a wonderful teacher and a great personality in academia, a man of impeccable integrity as a scientist and as a citizen. Never did he shrink from his duty to his country, either as a member of the Solidarity Movement in the underground or in the open, either as Dean of the Chemistry Department or the Secretary of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Professor Kolos would spend most of his time in his office, focussed on science, very hard working and very efficient, succint and precise when communicating with the outside world, cool, calm and perfect. In private or on informal occasions he was, however, most enjoyable to talk to and a greatly valued participant in summer schools and outings with students. I remember a student camp in the Pieniny range back in the 1970s. We had seminars in the morning, and later in the day wandered and hiked around in the mountains. He made great company and had an excellent sense of humor. Our favorite pastime was… eating donuts and creamy cakes, to the point that we called ourselves the Intern Cake Club, and in the evenings we „organized” a competition to determine who could devour more.
Professor Kolos came out on top, as usual. Whatever he did, he did best.
Professor Kolos, although confident of his trade and judgement, was extremely modest and unassuming. He avoided any kind of show and pomp, despite that, I hope he would approve some ceremony necessary when His Medal is presented to Laureates. We needed his unassuming leadership then, and we need to revive these memories now.
I believe that what impressed us, his students, most was this totality of a man who performed great science while leading an exemplary life.
We lessor mortals were stirred simply by his presence to strive to become our best. Our meeting today is to reflect upon such a feeling, and to pass it on to the next generation.