Czech scientists awarded in Prague


The "Czech Brain" prizes have been awarded in Prague to outstanding Czech scientists and researchers. The awards were founded three years ago with the goal of drawing the public's attention to research and development and to try and raise the prestige of scientific work in society.

The awards, which come with a financial prize, were handed to the winners by the Prime Minister Stanislav Gross, even though - as the organisers said - the government did not contribute a single penny to the project. The expert jury chose winners in several categories and from all fields: including medicine, biology, chemistry and astronomy.

The main prize for lifetime achievement was awarded to Professor Jaroslav Nemec, the founder of the Czech atomic energy programme and the pioneer of such disciplines as fracture mechanics and material engineering.

"As the oldest one here I want to say that it is vital to attract young people to science because it will become the foundation of society. At the time I graduated people were just beginning to build such constructions as nuclear power stations, gas pipelines. They had to be reliable and have a long service life. The focus then shifted to finding flaws in materials, observing how they age and degrade. I worked on the new disciplines, called fracture mechanics and material engineering, which I introduced here at universities."

At 83 Professor Nemec was the oldest awarded scientist; the youngest award-winner was 19-old Petr Kucera who received a prize for his study on the architectural monuments in the flood-stricken Prague district of Karlin and the perils they are facing as the area is being renovated.

"My work is about historic architecture and the urban development of one of Prague's districts, Karlin. It's about the rescue of the cultural heritage of this part of Prague because I think Karlin is a very beautiful and very important monument of Classicism. After the floods in August 2002 this part of Prague is threatened because Karlin is a very lucrative part of Prague for investors and so there are many historic buildings being demolished."

In the coming years the organisers hope to attract even more sponsors to fund the Czech Brain Award, a project that is supposed to raise awareness of the achievements of Czech scientists whose working conditions are often far more modest than those of their colleagues in other developed countries.