OK, so lets get back to the topic. Basically it's extremely hard for a non-westerner to be famous in the West. There are definitely many Poles worth knowing that are well known for people that are interested in a particular science, literature or music discipline, but are they known outside of this circle? I'm not sure. Have you heard about:
- Napoleon Cybulski
(the discoverer of adrenalin),
(the discoverer of vitamins),
(he established the foundation of knowledge of human blood types),
- Ignacy £ukasiewicz
(he developed a product called “nafta” kerosene (1852); invented the petroleum lamp, established the world’s first oil “mine”, built the first refinery in Ulaszowice near Jaslo, replaced hand mining with drilling machinery and steam power),
- Julian Ochorowicz
(he forecasted correctly the future technique of transmitting moving pictures so he can be said to have been one of the first to conceive the idea of television),
(he built one of the first cinema cameras in the world. This pleograph, or apparatus for taking photographs and projecting pictures, was built before the Lumiere Brothers lodged their patent. Proszynski also made the first pocket film-camera and devised a method of synchronizing sound and film tracks),
(he demonstrated the “first calculating machine in the world which could perform the four basic arithmetical processes and extract roots),
- Jan Szczepanik
(he patented many important inventions which were of use in textile machinery, electric television, color photography and films, and devised a method for the optical registration of sound),
- Alexander Wolszczan
( he was the forst man to discovere an extrasolar planet),
-Ludwik £azarz Zamenhof
(the creator of esperanto),
( His disertation, “Theorie generale de l’helice” (1920), was honored by the French Academy of Science as a fundamental work in the development of modern propellers),
(his works on the possibilities of a theory of probability were of a pioneer nature),
( He was the first man in history of chemistry to describe oxygen – “the food of life, which exists in the air”. He advanced the theory of combustion and breathing),
( he was the first to conceive the possibility of a multiple-stage rocket and of rocket batteries. May be considered a precursor of space flight),
- Stanisław Marcin Ulam
( known for his activities in Manhattan Project (1942-1947) that lead to the creation of nuclear weapons in Los Alamos)
- Paweł Włodkowic
( as early as the beginning of the 15th century he strongly supported the idea of conciliarism and pioneered the notion of peaceful coexistence among nations — a forerunner of modern theories of human rights), etc etc....
Aside from scientist there are also great Polish strategist like Hetman Koniecpolski ( the concorere of Gustavus Adolphus), Hetman Żółkiewski ( he managed something Hitler dreamed of, he set his foot In Moscow), Jan Karol Chodkiewicz ( in almost every military school the cadets are being thought about his magnificent victory over Swedes at Kircholm) or Jan III Sobieski ( the only "modern" man that has a star constellation named after him), etc...
Music? Szymanowski, Wieniawski, Paderewski, Rubinstein, etc.. Film? Wajda, Kieślowski, Jerzy Kawalerowicz - people that inspired the likes of Tarantino, Lynch or Scorsese... and many many more...
The truth is that the west was generally ignorant about the eastern part of Europe for a very long time. Would you know about Teodor Józef Konrad Korzeniowski (aka Joseph Conrad), Maria Skłodoska-Curie or Roman Polański if they would stay in Poland rather than go abroad? I doubt it.
Just because one haven’t heard about those people, doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth knowing about. There is still an enormous world of polish literature to be discovered by the westerners: Mickiewicz, Słowacki, Prus, Sienkiewicz, etc... Maybe in a few years time those names will stop being anonymous for you? I surely hope so. Maybe the computer game "The Witcher" in a short time will make Sapkowski the most known polish writer? Who know who knows...I surely hope so. :)