Prof. Rudolf Zahradník, Initiator of the Economics Institute, Passed Away

4 November, 2020

Professor Rudolf Zahradník, a leading Czech scientist in the field of quantum chemistry and molecular spectroscopy, former President of the Czech Academy of Sciences (CAS) and co-founder of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic, passed away on October 31 at the age of 92.

Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in December 1992, Professor Zahradník served as the first President of the newly established Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, a successor organization to the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. He dedicated his two terms as President (1993-2001) to the popularisation of Czech science and efforts to increase government investment in the Academy and in science in general. In 1994, together with Professor Otto Wichterle (the last President of the then Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences), he became founding chairman of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic.

Professor Jan Švejnar commented on the involvement of Professor Zahradník in the founding of the Economics Institute in 1992: "It was him who first came up with the idea that there should be a very good institute of economics. Together with Václav Pačes [Professor Václav Pačes, third Chairman of the CAS], he recruited me to launch the institute and made me the founding director. We did some tough bargaining, but he was always honest and fair."

Rudolf Zahradník graduated from the University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague. In the early 1960s, he obtained a research position at the J. Heyrovský Institute of Physical Chemistry, focusing on applied quantum chemistry, the theory of chemical reactivity, and molecular spectroscopy. In 1990-1993 he stood at the helm of the institute.

Professor Zahradník published more than 350 papers and 10 books. He lectured at a number of universities in Europe, the USA and Japan, and held professor positions at Charles University in Prague, University of Chemistry and Technology in Prague and Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He was Doctor Honoris Causa of the Technical University of Dresden, University of Fribourg, Technical University of Pardubice and Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Professor Zahradník received a number of awards for his achievements in science, including the Gold Plaque of J. Heyrovský, Charles University Gold Medal and the Gold Medal of the Slovak Chemical Society. He was awarded the Czech Republic's Medal of Merit in 1998 and the Austrian Decoration for Science and Art a year later. In 1999, he also received the Pro ecclesia et pontifice award from Pope John Paul II, and, in 2003, he was honoured with the French decoration Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques.