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Astronomy and Mathematics have been studied at Kraków University from the very beginning of its existence, initially at the Faculty of the Liberal Arts. The period of especially rapid development of these fields of science began after the University's renewal in 1400.

The Faculty's long history in brief

The Chair in Astronomy and Mathematics was founded in 1402 by Kraków burgher Jan Stobner. In 15th century a few scholars from the Faculty gained international fame: Marcin Król of Żórawica was a famous teacher of astronomy and geometry. Marcin Bylica of Olkusz became the astrologer of the king of Hungary and a co-founder of the Academy in Bratislava. Jan of Głogów and Wojciech of Brudzew made their name not only as scholars but also as possible teachers of Nicholaus Copernicus. A famous Viennese astronomer, Konrad Celtis also graduated in Kraków, and the most famous Polish astronomer, Nicholaus Copernicus (1473-1523) studied liberal arts here from 1491-1495.

Fifteenth century and the first half of sixteenth century are generally acknowledged as the University's golden age. Later came a period of decline, caused by a number of different factors. Changes for the better came as late as in the second half of the 18th century. The attempts to reform the Polish state went hand in hand with the attempts to reform the University. The most important of them was the Kołłątaj reform, introducing radical changes to the University structure, thanks to which the liberal arts started to play a much greater role. Since 1780 known as Szkoła Główna Koronna (Principal School of the Realm), the University now consisted of two Colleges: the Collegium Morale and the Collegium Physicum, with new facilities, such as the Physical Laboratory and the Astronomical Observatory (created by Jan Śniadecki) at its disposal.

The fall of the Polish state in 1795 marked the beginning of difficult times for the University. In the years to follow, it was abandoned by many eminent scholars, including Jan Śniadecki, and lost its Polish character. The Austrian government planned to disband the institution in 1810, but fortunately their plans were thwarted by Napoleon. After Krakow became part of the Duchy of Warsaw, the Universityregained its Polish character. In 1818, after the Republic of Kraków was established by the Vienna Congress. it was reorganized and adopted "Jagiellonian University" as its official name.

The period of foreign rule was generally unfavourable for the Polish academia. Mathematics was revived at the Jagiellonian University as late as in 1865, thanks to Franciszek Mertens's papers on mathematical analysis and prime numbers. It was further developed by such eminent scholars as Kazimierz Żorawski and Stanisław Zaremba, the later founder of the Polish Mathematical Society. The University won great renown in 1883, when two of its scientists: physicist Zygmunt Wróblewski and chemist Karol Olszewski succeeded in liquefying oxygen (for the first time in history).

The second half of the 19th century is recognized as another golden age of the University. In that period, astronomy, mathematics and physics functionedat the Faculty of Philosophy.

The Council of the Faculty of Philosophy in 1900

The first half of the 20th century was also a fruitful period for our faculty. In 1913, a world-renowned physicist, Marian Smoluchowski became one of the JU professors. The eminent scholars from that time also included theoretical physicist Władysław Natanson and astronomer Tadeusz Banachiewicz, who introduced "cracovians", useful in astronomical and geodetic calculations. He also organized research on eclipsing stars. After the end of the Second World War in 1945 he played a very important role in the restoration of the research centre in Krakow.

After the Word War II, the rapid development of physics was fostered by the professors who moved to Krakow from Vilnius, including: Henryk Niewodniczański, the founder of Krakow School of Nuclear Physics and famous theoreticians: Jan Blaton and Jan Weyssenhof. They educated many world-distinguished physicists. There were also many famous mathematicians, such as Franciszek Leja, Tadeusz Ważewski, Stanisław Gołąb and their disciples: Jacek Szarski, Andrzej Pliś, and Zdzisław Opial. As far as astronomy is concerned, a new field of study: radio astronomy was created at the JU.

Since 1945 the faculty structure of the JU has changed several times. The present Faculty of Physics, Astronomy and Applied Computer Science was created in 2003, when the former Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Computer Science was divided into two Faculties. Today the Faculty consists of the Astronomical Observatory, the Institute of Physics, and three Computer Science Departments.