Mailbox

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Today in Mailbox we reveal the name of the mystery person from our January competition and announce the names of the four lucky winners. Listeners quoted: K. Thiagarajan, J.R. Tinsley, Mike Talbot, Meredith Walker, Li Ming, Colin Rose, Ian Morrison, Colin Law, David Eldridge, Vikash Kumar, Mary Lou Krenek, Christopher Lewis.

Hello and a very warm welcome to Mailbox. Like we do every first Sunday of the month it's time for us to reveal the name of the mystery person from last month's competition and announce the names of the four lucky winners. I must admit I always look forward to your entries very much because I can always learn something new about our mystery person.

In January we asked you to tell us the name of a 17th-century Moravian-born Jesuit missionary who worked as a botanist and pharmacist in the Philippines. His name lives on to this day in the name of a genus of flowering plants.

The very first person to answer correctly was K. Thiagarajan from India.

"The answer is Jiri Josef Camel. In 1687 he left for the Philippines on a religious mission and he worked for 17 years in a hospital as a pharmacist. He wrote 19 treatises, in which he acquainted European medicine and pharmacy with the flora and fauna of the Philippines. Camel sent his research findings to J. Ray of London, a great authority in botany, who published his articles in 1704. More than 400 of his paintings are believed to be still kept in the British Museum till now."

J.R. Tinsley from the United States sent us this answer:

"At the age of 17 he went to the Jesuit Mission School in Vienna where he graduated in Natural Sciences. He was a lay brother in the Society of Jesus. No evidence shows that he was ever ordained as a priest. In 1683 he went to the Marianas but was then transferred to the Philippines where he established a pharmacy for people who were unable to pay for medicine. He wrote the work 'Herbs and Medicinal Plants of Luzon'. For his work in botany Carolus Linnaeus named the Camellia after him."

Mike Talbot from the Isle of Wight wrote this:

"Georg Joseph Kamel spent many years as a Jesuit Missionary in the Philippines, during those times he explored the islands for fauna and flora which he observed and catalogued. He is regarded as the most important pharmacist of the 17th century. UNESCO declared that the 300th anniversary of Kamel's death to be one of the most important anniversaries of 2006."

Meredith Walker from the United States sent us this:

"In 2006 he was honoured in Brno at an international conference that celebrated his life and work. Since my late father-in-law, E. V. Truesdale, grew and bred camellias, I am very interested to have learned about Kamel. As a confirmed Czechophile, I have to say thanks for another opportunity to learn about a famous Czech!"

Li Ming from China answered as follows:

"Camellias that originally grew in China are now one of the most sought after ornamental plants. Many people are familiar with camellias. However, very few know that the plant genus is named after a Jesuit lay brother missionary who worked in the Philippines from 1688 until his death in 1706. That is Georg Josef Kamel, known as a pharmacist, botanist and natural scientist, born at Brno, in Moravia, now the Czech Republic."

Colin Rose from England wrote this:

"Camellia is the flower that was named after a Czech. I had to look up who he was and it is ... Joseph Georg Kamel. As to the man he seems to have been the usual mixture of good and bad that makes up a Jesuit."

Ian Morrison from Beijing sent us this answer:

"The Jesuit missionary is Jiri Josef Kamel. Through my research to find this answer, I found out that the camellia was named after him by Swedish botanist Carl von Linne - you learn something new every day. Many thanks for helping to add to my general knowledge!"

Colin Law from New Zealand had this to say:

"In 2006 the 300th anniversary of Kamel's death was commemorated in his home town, Brno with an exhibition of Camellias 'Kamelie exoticka' in the Ethnographic Museum and an exhibition on the life of Kamel. A memorial service was held at the chateau Rajec nad Svitavou (south Moravia)."

David Eldridge from England sent us a few details on camellias:

"Camellias are not only grown for their flowers but also for their leaves and seeds. Tea is produced from young shoots and leaves the species Camellia sinensis, which means Chinese Camellia. This is an important crop plant, especially in India, Sri Lanka and Kenya. The seeds of Camellia sasanqua are used to produce the luxurious tea oil, which adds a subtly fragrant flavour to Oriental cooking. Japonicas, retics or reticulata hybrids, and williamsii, also make up the Camellia family which now comprises some 30,000 different named varieties."

Vikash Kumar from India sent us this answer:

"The camellia, whose beauty we can admire at the end of February and the beginning of March every year at the Rajec-Jestrebi chateau, placed the name of this son of Brno in the history of botany for all time. A street is named after him in the Jehnice district of Brno."

Mary Lou Krenek from Texas:

"For a human being in the seventeenth century to sacrifice his life and journey to a land across the world to help another culture of people was outstanding in itself. It was the sacrifice that Georg Josef Kamel made in his life that made him great and remembered to this day for his contribution to the world. The qualities of what makes a person 'great' have not changed through the centuries."

And finally Christopher Lewis from England had this to add:

"Czech Television recently made a documentary about Kamel's life. People have labelled him the most significant pharmacist of the 17th century."

Thank you very much for your interesting and well-researched answers - unfortunately, we can only quote a limited number each month. The four lucky winners this month are K. Thiagarajan from India, Bernard Deprez from Belgium, Li Ming from China and Vikash Kumar from India. Congratulations and Radio Prague goodies are in the post for you!


If you haven't been lucky this time why not give it a try in February.

Our mystery person this time is a woman. She was born in the former Czechoslovakia, she started off as a skier and was a member of the Czechoslovak national skiing team. Later she worked as a fashion model in the USA and Canada but today she is perhaps best-known thanks to her marriage to an American entrepreneur and media tycoon whom she divorced in 1992.

Please send us the name of this Czech-born American celebrity by the end of February to English@radio.cz or Radio Prague, 12099, Prague, Czech Republic.