Jiri Bicak

Czech Republic



Professor Jiří Bičák

The Czech National Committee for Astronomy regrets to announce that on the 26th of January
2024 professor of theoretical physics, teacher, colleague, and friend Jiří Bičák passed away
unexpectedly at the age of 82.

Jiří Bičák was born on January 7, 1942 in Prague. He graduated in theoretical physics at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of Charles University in 1964 and defended his PhD in 1968. He was mainly interested in the theory of relativity. In 1971, after returning from a six-month stay at Caltech in Kip Thorne's group, he began lecturing on general relativity with applications in relativistic astrophysics and cosmology. He supervised a number of diploma and PhD theses, and thus founded a school of relativistic physics in Prague, which is further developed by his students and collaborators. He was habilitated in 1982, became professor of theoretical physics in 1991, and from 1986 to 2003 he was the director of the Institute of Theoretical Physics at Charles University. He worked there until the end of his life. He participated in organizational work within the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, e.g. in its Scientific Council, and in other Czech universities. Silesian university in Opava honoured Jiří Bičák with the degree Doctor honoris causa. He led a number of grant projects that enabled many of his students to work in the field.

At the same time, Jiří Bičák maintained close contacts and collaboration with experts in relativistic
physics all over the world, in recent years especially in Cambridge, U.K., and Potsdam, Germany. He
had been active in the International Society of General Relativity and Gravitation (see “In memoriam
of Jiri Bicak” at https://hyperspace.uni-frankfurt.de/2024/02/09/in-memoriam-of-jiri-bicak/) , and was an Associate Editor of the journal General Relativity and Gravitation from 2007-2017. He has
organized or participated in the organization of a number of international conferences in the field.
Within the IAU as the member of Divisions D and J he was mainly interested in topics related to the
physics of compact objects and cosmology.

In addition to his original research on the frontiers of various areas of the theory of gravitation, he also
devoted himself to review and popularization works, e.g. on the history of the field. He was a founding
member of the Learned Society of the Czech Republic and a prominent figure in Czech scientific life.
He initiated the series of prestigious Bernard Bolzano lectures delivered by Martin Rees, Kip Thorn,
Reinhard Genzel, and others in Prague. His activities reached beyond science into the broader cultural
and social context. He used to include into his lectures various enrichments from the fields of literature and fine arts. His participation in musical productions at his department's social events was also popular.

The passing of Jiří Bičák is a great loss not only for a wide circle of his students and colleagues.
However, he left behind a legacy of work that has been permanently embedded in the history of the
field and will be inspiring to generations of his successors.

Contributed by Petr Hadrava, Vladimír Karas, Jan Palouš, Zdeněk Stuchlík

Past affiliation(s) within the IAU

  • Past Member of Division D High Energy Phenomena and Fundamental Physics (until 2024)
  • Past Member of Division J Galaxies and Cosmology (until 2024)

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