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Prof. Jiří Bičák, former President of the Learned Society, died at the age of 82

On Friday, January 26, 2024, Prof. RNDr. Jiří Bičák, DrSc., Dr.h.c., theoretical physicist, expert in the field of theory of relativity and cosmology, founding member of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic and between 2014-2016 also its President, died at the age of 82.

Jiří Bičák (* January 7, 1942) graduated from the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University (1959-1964), to which he remained professionally attached throughout his long scientific career. At its Institute of Theoretical Physics, he founded a research group investigating relativistic and gravitational physics.

Photo Tomáš Princ, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, Charles University

His six-month stay at the California Institute of Technology (1971) was a significant boost - not only for himself but also, indirectly, for generations of his students. Especially after 1989, he developed full-fledged collaborations with colleagues at the Institute of Astronomy (Cambridge University), the Max Planck Institute for Physics and Astrophysics (Garching), and the Albert-Einstein-Institute (Golm/Potsdam), which he visited annually.

Jiří Bičák served for years on the editorial boards of several professional journals (including General Relativity and Gravitation), including those open to a larger community of physics-interested readers (he often recalled his years on the editorial board of the Československý časopis pro fyziku (the Czechoslovak Journal of Physics). He received many awards, including the Neuron Award for Lifetime Contribution to Science (2014). In 2022, the Learned Society awarded him the Numisma honoris Societatis scientiarum Bohemicae medal for meritorious contributions to the advancement of science.

He has been a member of many scientific organizations, including the International Astronomical Union (since 1979), the American Physical Society (1997, as a Fellow since 2017) and the Royal Astronomical Society of London (1997).

He has also been strongly involved in the popularization of science. In addition to organizing conferences, he has regularly lectured to the general public, not only in the field of his scientific expertise but also on broader issues of the direction of science and the evaluation of scientific work. As part of his work at the Learned Society, he initiated and organized the Bernard Bolzano lecture series, which has already included presentations by Cédric Villani, Kip Thorne, Martin Rees, and, last year, at Jan Palouš's initiative, Reinhard Genzel.

In addition to his scientific achievements and profound influence on generations of his followers at home and abroad, his relationship with art cannot be overlooked. To music in particular, but also to the emotionally rational world of Otokar Březina, of whose works he was one of the intimate connoisseurs.

The funeral mass and last farewell to Prof. Jiří Bičák will be held on Saturday, February 10, 2024, at 11.00 a.m. in the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of the Lord, Jiřího z Poděbrad Square, Prague 3 - Vinohrady.