Mirosław Jan Mossakowski was born in Bereza Kartuzka in the eastern part of pre-war Poland. His father was a forester
and his mother was a teacher.
On December 26 2001, he died after a 16-month-long battle with a serious illness. He was laid to rest in Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw with military funeral honours.
He attended primary school in the former province of Poland called Polesie. He started secondary school during World War II on a course of secret education, since official schooling was prohibited by the German occupant. After the war he completed this part of his education in Lipno (Kujawy — Northern Poland) in 1948.
He graduated with distinction from the Medical School in Gdańsk in 1953. A year later he moved to Warsaw to obtain Ph.D. training at the Department of Histopathology of the Central Nervous System of the Polish Academy of Sciences under the guidance of Prof. Adam Opalski, an internationally recognized expert in the pathomorphology of glial cells. The department was soon to evolve to the Department of Neuropathology, a research unit which a few years later became the nucleus of the Medical Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences, an institute he founded and headed for more than a quarter of the century.
While still a student he began his work in the Department of Anatomy of the Medical University of Gdańsk, which was an interesting beginning for a man who would go on to make a remarkable career as a leading neuropathologist. At this time he developed an interest in the central nervous system. Influenced by his master, Professor Michał Reicher, he decided to try to understand and deal with pathology in the most complex system known to man — the human brain.
As a young physician, he was employed as an assistant in the Chair of Medical Neurology led by Professor Zofia Majewska. Despite his strong interest in clinical medicine, he chose neuropathology as his calling and after a short period of clinical training he moved to Warsaw in 1954, where he soon proved to be an outstanding scientist.
In the early years of his career he also worked at the Neurological Clinic of the Medical School under the guidance of Prof. I. Hausmanowa-Petrusewicz where he acquired the Ist and then the IInd degree specialization in neurology.
He began his adventure with neuropathology in 1954 under the guidance of the outstanding clinician and neuropathologist, Professor Adam Opalski, who was at that time establishing the embryonic speciality of histopathology of the nervous system. This experience led to a lifelong interest in neuropathology. In the years 1954–1957 he had the status of an aspirant of the newly created Department of Histopathology of the Central Nervous System of the Polish Academy of Sciences. At the same time, until 1962, he served as a part-time assistant in the
Department of Medical Neurology of the Medical University of Warsaw. Here, under the guidance of Professor Irena Hausmanowa, he continued his clinical training, which would result later (1962) in the acquisition of the title of a certified specialist in this discipline. In spite of this qualification, he devoted himself exclusively to neuropathology.
In 1957 he joined the newly created Department of Neuropathology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, directed by
Assistant Professor (docent) Ewa Ossetowska.
In the scientific development of Mirosław Mossakowski, a great part was played by his foreign training. He was awarded a Rockefeller Medical Fellowship and spent a year (1959–1960) in the world-famous Montreal Neurological Institute in Canada. Here he took a great opportunity to further refine his knowledge. In this Institute, directed by Wilder Penfield, he cooperated with this giant of neuroscience and with another famous scientist of Polish origin, Jerzy Olszewski. The latter was a trainee of the famous Polish neuroanatomist and neurophysiologist at Vilnius University,
Maximilian Rose. One can readily speculate to what extent these great personalities exerted a strong influence on young Mossakowski. When he completed his training in America he returned to Warsaw.
In 1960 he received his doctor’s degree. The subject of his doctoral thesis was Astrocytomas of the brain and cerebellum. This was in fact a monograph of fundamental importance. His promoter, Professor Adam Kunicki, was one of the two founders of Polish neurosurgery and an expert in the field of the histology of brain tumours. He soon proved to be an outstanding anatomist, microscopic diagnostician and experimenter. His intensive research was crowned in 1966 with his dissertation, The pathomorphology and histochemistry of spontaneous and experimental encephalopathies of hepatic origin. For this work the Medical Faculty in Warsaw granted him the right to teach at
university as a docent (Assistant Professor).
In the years 1966–1967 he worked in the renowned National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness in the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, USA. There he conducted studies on experimental neuropathology. It was Igor Klatzo (besides Olszewski, another alumnus of the Polish Stefan Batory University in pre-war Vilnius) who gave him directions in investigating brain oedema. On his return to Poland, Mossakowski devoted his tremendous organisational talent to the cause of the development of Polish science.