Rudolf Zahradnik, trailblazing Czech chemist, dies at 92
Rudolf Zahradník, one of the founders of Czech quantum chemistry, died at the age of 92 on Saturday. The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic announced his passing on its website.
Zahradník was the chairman of the academy in its beginnings after the Czechoslovakia division and a founding member and chairman of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic. He was also a trainer of the later German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the 1980s.
“Professor Zahradník was not only a strong scientific figure, but he was also a very nice and charming person. We will miss his nobility, wit, and always good mood. He was also a very important person who did so much for the newly established Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic that no one another, “said the current chairwoman of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic Eva Zažímalová. “Rudolf was a world-renowned theoretical chemist and a real gentleman with a huge charisma,” said Zdeněk Havlas, vice-president of the academy and former director of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry.
Rudolf Zahradník was a member of the scout movement in his youth. In the early 1950s, he graduated from the University of Chemical Technology in Prague and, together with his teacher Jaroslav Koutecký, became the founder of Czech and Central European quantum chemistry. He led the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic for two terms from 1993 to 2001, and from 1994 to 1997, he was also the chairman of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic. He has received many honors for his scientific work, such as the Czech Medal of Merit in 1998 and the Austrian Honorary Cross for Science and Art a year later.
Zahradník is the author or co-author of more than 350 scientific articles and ten books. He has been a visiting professor at several Central and Western European universities. In the 1980s, his students included the current German Chancellor Merkel, who was on an internship several times in Czechoslovakia at the time. She did not forget her mentor even after years, and in 2018 she also took part in Zahradník’s 90th birthday during a state visit to the Czech Republic.
At the head of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Zahradník fought for the future of Czech science and future scientists’ education. Among other things, he devoted his term of office to the popularization of Czech science and criticized the Czech media’s approach to scientific work or problems in education. “The upliftment and expansion of universities require the knowledge and skills of young people, who, after several years of training, often return from the world very well prepared for research and teaching,” he told a meeting of the academic assembly in 2001.