BIEM Marcin (of Olkusz, called The Younger)—to distinguish him from Marcin Bylica of Olkusz)—an astronomer, theologian, leading representative of the mathematical-natural science of Kraków, student of Wojciech of Brudzewo, b. around 1470 in Olkusz, d. November 9, 1540 in Kraków.
From 1486 he studied in Kraków in the faculty of arts. In 1488 he received the degree of bachelor, and in 1491 the title of master of arts. For a long period he worked in the philosophical faculty: in the years 1491 to 1496 as an extraneus, 1496–1500 as a minor colleague, and up to 1506 as a major colleague. In this period he interacted with N. Copernicus (a student of the Academy of Kraków from 1491 to 1496) who is thought to have attended his lectures. Correspondence has been preserved that testifies to their acquaintance. After entering the Major College (1500) he resigned from work on mathematical and astronomical problems and took up the obligations of a lector of Aristotle’s writings. From 1506 he returned definitively to theological studies; on January 22, 1517 he obtained a doctorate in theology. He did not, however, completely abandon his mathematical and astronomical interests; in spring of 1530 he conducted observations of a partial solar eclipse, and in fall of the same of a total lunar eclipse. In the name of the university he developed a project to reform the Julian Calendar based on astronomical principles, Nova Calendarii romani reformatio (ed. A. Birkenmajer, Kr 1918), intended for the Fifth Lateran Council (1516), and according to the opinion of a scholar of the time it was the best of four such calendars that were sent. It was Biem’s most sublime work—his proposed solution was similar to the later plan of Aloysius Lilii, which became the basis for the Gregorian reform.
Biem held the post of rector of the university ten times, three times he was dean of the faculty of theology, and from 1526 he was vicar in St. Nicholas’ (Mikołaj) Church. As rector and dean he contributed to a reform of the statutes for the theology faculty (1521) and the medical faculty (1535). In the matter of reforms in the faculty of arts he supported the conservatives and adherents of old orders. He strove to raise the rank of disputations, which were disappearing at that time, and proposed a return to the old program of teaching with the entire ensemble of disputations, scholastic exercises, etc. In 1536 as rector, in collaboration with a committee that was convoked whose members included John of Sanok and Marcin of Koprzynica, he initiated a reform that would be a return from humanism to scholasticism. The reform was aimed at upholding the declining philosophy lectures, the tradition of disputations, and making examination requirements more rigorous. He shared the view of the adherents of scholasticism that only a philosophical education based on a knowledge of Aristotle’s teaching could be a foundation for further humanistic-rhetorical studies, or professional studies (theology, law, medicine). In 1538 Biem received the honor of being the vice-chancellor of the Academy of Kraków.
He left several thousand meteorological records and data from his observations of solar eclipses and comets. These would serve as comparative material for Nicholas Copernicus. Biem’s works concerning climate and atmospheric variations marked the beginnings of a new discipline—meteorology.
A. Birkenmajer, PSB II 68–89; H. Barycz, Dzieje nauki w Polsce w epoce odrodzenia [History of science in Poland in the epoch of the Renaissance], Wwa 1957; A. Birkenmajer, Osiągnięcie duchowieństwa polskiego w zakresie nauk matematycznych i przyrodniczych [Accomplishments of the Polish clergy in the area of the mathematical and natural sciences], in: Księga tysiąclecia katolicyzmu w Polsce [Book of the millenium of Catholicism in Poland], Lb 1969, II 43.