Secret Studies In Warsaw
I continued my efforts to educate myself. This was no easy task under the Russian government of Warsaw; yet I found more opportunities than in the country. To my great joy, I was able, for the first time in my life, to find access to a laboratory: a small municipal physical laboratory directed by one of my cousins. I found little time to work there, except in the evenings and on Sundays, and was generally left to myself. I tried out various experiments described in treatises on physics and chemistry, and the results were sometimes unexpected. At times I would be encouraged by a little unhoped-for success, at others I would be in the deepest despair because of accidents and failures resulting from my inexperience. But on the whole, though I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy, this first trial confirmed in me the taste for experimental research in the fields of physics and chemistry.
Other means of instruction came to me through my being one of an enthusiastic group of young men and women of Warsaw, who united in a common desire to study, and whose activities were at the same time social and patriotic. It was one of those groups of Polish youths who believed that the hope of their country lay in a great effort to develop the intellectual and moral strength of the nation, and that such an effort would lead to a better national situation. The nearest purpose was to work at ones own instruction and to provide means of instruction for workmen and peasants. In accordance with this program we agreed among ourselves to give evening courses, each one teaching what he knew best. There is no need to say that this was a secret organization, which made everything extremely difficult. There were in our group very devoted young people who, as I still believe today, could do truly useful work.
I have a bright remembrance of the sympathetic intellectual and social companionship which I enjoyed at that time. Truly the means of action were poor and the results obtained could not be considerable; yet I still believe that the ideas which inspired us then are the only way to real social progress. You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.
from Autobiographical Notes pp. 167-168.