Poland, where Nicholas Copernicus was born in 1473, was one of the "people's democracies" singled out for particular praise in J.D. Bernal's Science in History, published in 1954. Having visited the country many times during the postwar years, Bernal wrote of the "new burst of activity in the scientific field" that ho had witnessed.

"The physics laboratories of Warsaw University, for instance, are better equipped than any in Britain, and only yield place to those in the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R"

Now a country of some 27 million people, Poland has seen several episodes of severe economic and political upheaval since Bernal wrote those words. In 1970, growing dissatisfaction with the regime and riots in Gdansk and elsewhere forced the ouster of several leaders, including Wiadyslaw Gomulka, as the party and state made changes designed to revitalize the Polish economy. But subsequent jumps in food prices despite static wages led...

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