Astronomy in the Czech lands II - Czech-born astronomers working abroad

Albert Einstein

Welcome to Czech Science. Last week we started a short series about astronomy in the Czech lands. Our guest, the director of the Astronomical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Professor Jan Palous, took us back to 17th century Rudolphine Prague - a time when the city hosted such famous astronomers as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Only three centuries later it was Albert Einstein who spent two years in Prague and very likely formulated his general principle of relativity here. While in last week's episode, Professor Palous talked about foreign scholars working in this country, today he'll be talking predominantly about Czech-born astronomers who made their careers abroad.

"So this is quite a famous history in the Czech lands and we can refer to this wonderful history and we would wish to follow our famous predecessors. This is, of course, not simple but going to subsequent, more recent history, one of the main scientists in the Apollo project, landing on the surface of the Moon in the 1960, was Professor Zdenek Kopal. He was a professor of astronomy in Manchester. However he visited Prague frequently. And I think the researches of the soil coming from the surface of the Moon were partly performed also here by Czech scientists such as Petr Jakes also because Professor Kopal was one of the main scientists in the Apollo landing on the surface of the Moon programme."

Sun flare
There are a number of Czech-born scholars at foreign universities and research centres. Many left Czechoslovakia in the years of communist rule. But now they are in regular professional contact with their colleagues in the Czech Republic.

"We may go to a more recent history. We have quite influential people at different places in the United States and in Europe. For instance Zdenek Svestka, who is the editor of the "Solar Physics" journal. He is a very well-known solar physicist. Then we also have Mirek Plavec who is at the University of California in Los Angeles. Now he is Professor Emeritus of astronomy there at the astronomical department. He was mainly in stellar physics. Or, we have in NASA Ivan Hubeny who is still there and we are trying to attract him back."

And we'll continue our series on Czech astronomy next week here on Radio Prague.