A brief glence on the Czech scientists in exhile / Kratky pohled na ceske vedce v exiluA brief glence on the Czech scientists in exhile / Kratky pohled na ceske vedce v exilu | Czechmatediary
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A brief glence on the Czech scientists in exhile / Kratky pohled na ceske vedce v exilu

chemistry yahoo image There is a new interesting Czech book out there called “The Czech scientists in exile” and Radio Praha just recently published a shortened version of couple of those people’s biographies. For the sake of space I shortened their already shortened version even more but it is still a VERY interesting reading…

Josef Michl (Boulder, CO)

Why do people call him the “renaissance chemist”? Because Josef excels not only in theory but also in hands-on research work. He is currently also the most cited Czech-born researcher out there, having been cited about 15,000 times in various research articles. Another reason why they call him that nickname is that he teaches in 6 different languages but can get by speaking Japanese as well.

Little Josef was born in 1939 just 2 days before the Nazi troops marched into Czech and Moravian lands. He did great at school, especially when it came to chemistry and languages. One day his teenage neighbor decided to give him his “retired” chemistry lab kit and from that day it went “downhill”. Josef closed himself up in a dark room with now windows and started creating his magic potions. With all those unsupervised and dangerous experiments, by this day Josef still can’t believe he and his family are alive! Although at 18 years of age Josef has had as much chemistry experience as a 40-year old experienced scientist, he decided to go get an actual degree in it. In those heated times it was much easier to study chemistry than languages anyways. As a student he had a part-time job as a sightseeing leader for English-speaking tourists which is where he met Sara his future wife. Josef found out about the Russian occupation in 1968 when he was doing a summer school in a Swedish town Lillenhammer. What should he do?? Should he go back to Prague and risk getting arrested by the communist because he was registered as a non-partistan?? Finally, he decided to stay. He went to Denmark and from there right to the USA where he connected with his girlfriend Sara. Together they lived in Salt Lake City first, then moved to Austin and finished their traveling journey in Boulder, Colorado, where they have been living ever since. He is also a professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado – only par time however, as he likes to go back to Czech for 4 months each year to teach chemistry to the Czech students.

In 1999 was Josef Michl elected to be a member of the honorary American Academy of Arts and Sciences to which Josef comments with a smile on his face:”that way I can easily buddy up with those poets and movie stars..”.

Jiri Cizek (Toronto)

Jiri was born in 1938 as the only child of a doctor couple. Although pressed to study medicine his heart belonged to math. His early “applied mathematics” years started through making model planes, which he loved as a child. Later in his life Jiri decided to study chemistry because it wasn’t as heated scientific topic during the communist times as were the other disciplines therefore the department was less closely watched by the government and one could do his work in peace. Not only he found a meaningful work in these labs but he also discovered his lifelong love there, a fellow scientist Ludmila. Jiri’s work consisted mostly of researching one molecule – benzene – and its behavioral patterns with other molecules in electrical and magnetic field. In 1963 was young Cizek surprisingly allowed to attend a scientific training in Paris, where he was able to use a real IBM computer (instead of the the Midevil Czech computer “Ural”) to work further on his research. Thanks to this experience he was able to release his now very famous scientific article about the so-called “coupled clusters” in a very prominent scientific journal, the Journal of Chemical Physics. During the revolutionary year of 1968 – couple of years after the world read his genius ideas – Jiri was offered a teaching/researching spot at the Canadian university in Waterloo. Afer some time of thinking things through, Cizek accepted his new job and together with his wife and a little son Peter left Czechoslovakia not knowing if they would ever see their homeland again. “When the Velvet Revolution happened in 1989 the Canadian media barely covered this news and when they did it was days later“. But when Jiri did make it back to the new democratic Czechoslovakia, he arrived to a big welcome party with all of his former colleagues attending. Later he also received couple of awards for his work abroad. Now that his homeland was free, he wanted to make up the time that he “lost”, retired from his teaching post in Canada at the age of 58 and got involved in a start up of a new Czech school of chemistry in Opava. Besides teaching there, he also facilitated adding about 10,000 up-to-date scientific textbooks to their library! Nowadays mr. Cizek spends his days mostly attending to his hobbies, the history of mathematics and physics.

Josef Michl (Boulder, CO)

Mnohokrat nazvyan “renesancni chemik”, Michl je jak vyborny teoretik, tak oslnivy experimentator. Je take v soucastnosti nejcitovanejsim ceskym vedcem ceskeho puvodu – byl citovan pres 15 tisic krat; prednasi v 6-ti svetovych jazycih, ale domluvi se napriklad take japonsky. Josifek se narodil v roce 1939, tri dny pred tim, nez Naciste obsadili Cechy a Moravu. Ve skole se mu vedlo velmi dobre, a to hlavne v hodinach chemie a jazyka. Jednou mu soused – student chemie na technice – venoval svou domaci (“skladaci”) laborator, a pak to slo vsechno “z kopce”. Josef se s ni zavrel do nevetraneho kumbalu a zacal “carovat”. Jiz dodnes se divi, ze tam sebe a cely jeho barak nevyhodil do povetri! Jako zkuseny chemik se tedy rozhodl vystudovat obor chemie na prazske universite; v teto dobe bylo mnohem jednodussi studovat chemii nez nez jazyky. Za studenskych let si prividelaval jako pruvodce anglicky mluvicich turistu, kde se take zamiloval do sve budouci zeny Sary. O ruske okupaci v roce 1968 se Josef dozvedel behem sve staze ve svedskem Lillenhammeru. Co bude delat? Vrati se do Prahy a bude riskovat zatknuti za to, ze byl registrovany nestranik? Rozhodl se zustat; pres Dansko se dostal do USA, kde se take spojil se svou pritelkyni Sarou. Zil v Salt Lake City, Austinu, ale od roku 1991 zije v coloradskem Boulderu, kde take uci na mistni universite, ovsem ne cely rok – 4 mesice z roku totiz uci take v Praze 🙂

V roce 1999 byl zvolen cestnym clenem Americke akademie umeni a ved; “tam si mohu tykat i s basniky a filmovymi hvezdami”, podotyka Jiri s usmevem.

Jiri Cizek (Toronto)

Narozen v roce 1938 jako jedinacek dvou doktoru, Jirku ale lakala vice matematika, kterou zacal praktikovat jiz v utlem veku skrze letecke modelarstvi, ktere jako kluk miloval. V 50. letech zkoncil na Ustavu fyzikalni chemie a to proto, ze to bylo politicky zastitene reditelem Brdickou a nikdo z komunistickeho vedeni je “neotravoval”. Jiri se zde take zamiloval do laborantky Ludmily, s kterou se o dva roky ozenil. Zabyval pomery jedine molekuly (benzenu) v elektrickem a magnetickem poli – snazil se tak usoudit stabilitu sloucenin z techto molekul vytvorene. V roce 1963 ho komuniste kupodivu nechali odjet na staz do Parize, kde mel k dizpozici opravdovy IBM pocitac (oproti Uralu v Cechach), skrze nej obdrzel vice informaci potrebnych k uverejneni jeho nyni historickemu clanku o tzv. “sprazenych klastrech” (Coupled Clutsters) v Journal of Chemical Physics. Diky tomuto clanku mu v revolucnim roce 1968 bylo nabidnuto misto na male universite v Kanadskem meste Waterloo u Toronta. Cizek misto prijal a s manzelkou a malinkym Petrem se rozjeli do Kanady, aniz by vedeli, jestli se do jejich rodne zeme v budoucnosti vubec nekdy podivaji. “O 17. listopadu nas kanadska media zpocatku informovala jen okrajove a se spozdenim”. Kdyz se konecne do svobodneho Ceskoslovenska dostal, byl velmi slavnostne privitan svymi byvalymi kolegy, dostal take par vyznamnych oceneni za svou praci v zahranici. Aby si tento zmeskany cas s milovanymi Cechami mohl Jiri vynahradit, jiz 58-mi letech odesel do duchodu (na strane kanadske) a zacal aktivne pomahat zacinajici universite v Opave, ktere sehnal pres 10 000 odbornych knih! Dnes se pan Cizek venuje zejmena svym konickum a to historii fyziky a matematiky.


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