Jerzy Franciszek Plebañski Rosinski was born on the 7th of May 1928 in Warsaw, Poland. There is a longstanding scholarly tradition in his family. His greatgrandfather was a known historian, and one of his uncles was a university professor. His father was an engineer who directed an electronic factory; he was also an inventor, and he held several patents in Poland and in England.
At the age of seven, his uncle Stanislaw taught Jerzy how to play chess. Chess is a passion for him that continues even now. The history of a country is strongly determined by its geographical location, and Poland is located between Russia and Germany. The Second Wold War started in Poland. Jerzy's adolescence was dominated by this event. He lived and suffered the repression that took the lives of many of his classmates in the Warsaw Insurrection of 1944.
In 1947, at the end of the Second World War, he was able to begin his university studies. He decided to pursue a career in Physics at the University Warsaw. From the very beginning, he distinguished himself as an outstanding student.
When Lepold Infeld (a collaborator of Einstein) returned to Poland from the United States, in 1950, he began a close collaboration with Jerzy. The influence of Infeld is apparent in Jerzy's first research contributions. Infeld introduced Jerzy to problems in electrodynamics, with a special emphasis on the Born-Infeld theory of non-linear electrodynamics. Another subject they worked on together was the theory of General Relativity, e.g. the problem of the motion of material bodies under gravitational forces. This collaboration continued for more than ten years, and among its outputs one should mention the book Motion and Relativity wich they wrote together.
In 1954, Jerzy obtained his PhD degree in Physics under the direction of Prof. Wojciech Rubinowicz. His thesis was titled "Functional representation of the state vector in the quantum field".
In 1958 Jerzy traveled to the United States, and spent two years there, first as an invited prodessor at the Intitute of Advanced Studies in Princeton, and then at UCLA in Los Angeles. This period was instrumental for Jerzy in establishing personal and professional ties with the US scientific community. For instance, his frienships with John Stachel, Peter Havas, and John Archivald Weeler started then.
In 1960 he had to return to Poland. It was the government policy that all Poles who were abroad had to return to Poland within a specified time, in order to avoid reprisals against their families and friends.
In 1961 he married Anna Lazarowicz. Those were difficult times for Poland. One of Jerzy's uncles was put in prision for five years for ideological reasons, and died only a month after he was set free, as a consequence of the treatment that he received in prison. At that time, the name of Jerzy came up in relation to a possible appointment in Moscow at the Institute of Prof. Landau. Apparently, the deal did not go through due to Jerzy's relationship with a man in jail.
In 1962 Jerzy and Anna arrived to Mexico. In the years of the Cold War, Mexico was a neutral country, and their visit was approved by the Polish authorities. He was invited by Dr. Arturo Rosenblueth to join the physics deparment of the Advanced Studies and Research Centre [Centro de Investigaciones y de Estudios Avanzados - CINVESTAV] in Mexico city. When he arrived to the centre he found out how surprisingly small it was: there were only four professors. He then decided to stay here. Two years later, his daughther Magda was born. Madga continues the family scholarly tradition. She received a Ph.D. in physiology at the University of Bristol in England. She is now working at Oxford University. During those years in Mexico, Jerzy worked on several monographs such as "Spinors, Tetrads and Forms", "General Relativistic Spinors", "Lectures on General Relativity", "A Study on Non-linear Electrodynamics" and others. Unfortunately, because of the cultural isolation of Mexico at that time, these monographs did not circulate in the international scientific community as much as they should have.
In 1964 he introduced a matter-tensor classification wich now is know as "Plebanski's classification".
In 1967 Jerzy was ordered by the Polish authorities to return to Poland. The situation in Poland had not improved, either socially or politically. In particular, the university situation was bad, with low salaries and no resources. Two years later the Rector asked him to be the Pro-rector of the University of Warsaw. This administrative position made it very difficult for Jerzy to continue in his research activities. Nevertheless, after a full day busy with administrative duties, he dedicated his nights to his work. (He has declined to tell us when or if he found time to sleep.)
In 1973 he decided to return to Mexico. He was able to return to full time research. During the nights he spent studying while Pro-rector in Warsaw, he produced some of the works for which he is now best known, such as his formulation of the equations for self-dual gravity in term of a non-linear equation, the Heavenly equation, for a single potencial function. Another contribution that goes back to those years is the discovery of a self-dual variational principle for general relativity that contains the seed of the currently popular Ashtekar canonical variables for Quantum Gravity. These years represent a very active period in Jerzy's career, during which he enjoyed the visits and the collaboration of many notable relativists like Ivor Robinson, Roy Kerr, Fred Erns, and Felix Pirani. We have already mentioned one of Jersy's passions, chess. Another one that should be mentioned is the search for exact solutions of the Einstein's equations. His contributions to this field are too many to list here. They include the parametrization of all solutions of Petrov type-D in the so called Plebanski-Demianski metric, and his works with Ivor Robinson in relation to Einstein's equations for complex space-times and their algebraically degenerate real solutions.
In 1973, Jerzy settled down in Mexico. Of course, he traveled to other countries because of his scientific work, and he also visits his native Poland, continuing his scientific contacts there. Mexico is a country still very young in its scientific tradition. The presence of Jerzy in the Physics Deparment of CINVESTAV has been (and continue to be) fundamental in the development of high-level research in Theoretical Physics in Mexico. He has produced many of the MSc's and PhD's who are now very active researchers.
Despite a period of illness that kept him away from active resarch during the late eighties, his enthusiasm for Physics remains constant, as one can tell from his list of publications.