The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lost independence in 1795 and was partitioned among her powerful neighbours: Austria, Prussia and Russia. The two old Polish universities in Cracow and Lvov enjoyed relatively liberals laws in the Austrian partition. It was there that Polish physicists (Karol Olszewski, Zygmunt Wróblewski, Marian Smoluchowski, Władysław Natanson, Wojciech Rubinowicz, Czesław Białobrzeski, and others) made most important discoveries and original contributions. There was no possibility of career for Poles living in the oppressive Russian and Prussian partitions where even the use of Polish language was forbidden in schools. Thus many bright Polish students such as e.g. Kazimierz Fajans, Stefan Pieńkowski, Maria Skłodowska, and Mieczysław Wolfke, went abroad to study in foreign universities. In spite of unfavourable conditions under which they had to live and act in the period 1870‒1920, Polish scholars were not only passive recipients of new ideas in physics, but made essential contributions to several fields such as e.g. cryogenics, electromagnetism, statistical physics, relativity, radioactivity, quantum physics, and astrophysics.