Famous Czechs and their deeds:
Charles IV, son of John of Luxembourg, popular monarch who heralded a Golden age of the Czech crownlands. During his reign (1346-1378) Prague grew into one of the largest and most important cities in Europe. Charles University was founded in 1348, Charles Bridge construction began mid-14th century. Many other marks of his influence exist.
Jan Hus, 1372/73-1415, founder of the Hussite movement in the early 15th century (100 years before Martin Luther). Hus was a priest offended by the Catholic Church’s wealth, corruption, and hierarchical tendencies, and led the first organized revolution against the Catholic Church. The Hussite city, Tabor, has a museum on Hus and his followers and their wars. He was burned at the stake in 1415, his martyrdom empowering the religious and nationalistic rebellion which continued for years. During this time of great nationalism in the Czech lands, every peasant could read and write while no other nation had accomplished that at that time.
Jan Ziska, a Hussite leader (see Jan Hus), and founded the ctiy of Tabor in 1420. Statues of Ziska as well as Jan Hus and St. John Nepomuk are found all over the Czech Republic.
Empress Maria-Theresa, 1717-1780, an enlightened ruler by Hapsburg standards, reigned from 1742 to 1780 and relaxed the repressive Austrian rule, leading to a revival in the Czech crown lands. She made school attendance compulsory in the Czech lands and other social improvements.
Thomas G. Masaryk, 1850-1937, first president of Czechoslovakia (1918), was called the father of his country. Born a Moravian Slovak, Masaryk fought for the Czech people’s independence. Along with Benes and Stefanik, he convinced the Allies of World War II that the Hapsburg Empire should be dissolved.
Edward Benes, 1884-1948, first prime minister of Czechoslovakia (1918) and president of Czechoslovakia 1935-38 & 1940-48, having worked with Masaryk and Stefanik convincing the Allies that the Hapsburg Empire should be dissolved after World War II. He declared Decrees of Nationalization requiring most people of German background to be expelled to Germany.
Milan Rastislav Stefanik, a Slovak astronomer, persuaded (along with Masaryk and Benes), the Allied governments of World War II that the Hapsburg Empire (Austro-Hungarian) must be dissolved.
Alexander Dubcek, Communist Party leader in 1967, lead a reform movement “Prague Spring” which allowed the people many freedoms.
Vaclav Havel (1936-2011), dissident playwright and writer imprisoned for his part in demanding fundamental human rights and freedoms while Czechoslovakia was still under Communism. Havel became president of the new Czech Republic in 1989 and served until 1992. The Prague airport was renamed in his honor, Vaclav Havel Airport Prague.
Bedrich Smetana, 1824-1884, composer of popular, spirited classical music. Known as the founder of modern Czech music, he wrote eight patriotic operas including Bartered Bride, six symphonic poems, and numerous bright piano pieces featuring the Czech polka.
Antonin Dvorak, 1841-1904, composer of Slavonic Dances which brought him fame, and of concertos, symphonies, chamber music, and songs which are loved by the people. Born a Bohemian peasant, exposed to village music and dance, he wrote their rhythms and warmth into his music.
Jan Rosicky, emigrant and pioneer in Nebraska, published the Czech newspaper, Hospodar in Omaha. He published data gathered by Frank Mares on Nebraska and Kansas pioneers and their Czech origins. A historian, Rosicky compiled this type of information himself. His daughter’s book, A History of Czechs (Bohemians) in Nebraska was published in 1929. (Sorry for the shrunken font. I couldn’t fix it and believe it to be a fault of WordPress, the software for this website).
Frank Mares, gatherer of data on Czech pioneers and their orgins in Nebraska and part of Kansas. Articles based on his data were published in Rosicky’s Hospodar 1891-95. Nebraska, Kansas Czech Settlers, 1891-1895, compiled by M. Sobotka, is based on Mares’s extensive data.
Dr. Jan A. Habenicht, doctor, emigrant, and historian. After thirty years of research, he published History of Czechs in America in 1910. This extensive work gives the names, origins, and additional information for almost every Czech, Slovak and Moravian in the USA in the 19th & early 20th centuries.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791, one of the greatest composers of all time, was under-appreciated in his birth country, Austria. He visited in Prague where he wrote and conducted, and the Czechs loved him. Mozart is my honorary Czech. Favorites of his works are Don Giovanni (which premiered in Prague), The Marriage of Figaro, and The Magic Flute (operas). The genius wrote in every music genre of his time, suffering personal problems and ill health, and died in Vienna at age 35.
Jan Amos Komensky/Comenius, 1592-1670, born in Moravia, educator who revolutionized schooling methods in Poland, Germany, England, and Sweden. He wrote more than 200 books on his educational system of rounded curriculum and human betterment. His work has effected human rights and the unity and freedom of mankind all over the world.
Frantisek Palacky, 1798-1876, historian who transformed the cultural campaign for the preservation of Czech nationality into a political movement for the restoration of Bohemian independence. He was a leader in the “national awakening” that made Czechs aware of their glorious past and proud of their language and culture.
Augustine Herrman, 1605-1686, earliest known American settler from Czech lands, in New York in the early 17th century. He claimed to be the father of the Virginia tobacco trade. He was a successful businessman and map maker, acquiring great wealth and social position.
Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, writer of novels and short stories, still widely read. He was born in a German Prague, the son of a Czech father and a German-Jew mother. From a lifetime of struggle with his personal identity and with family problems came literature about human alienation, anxiety, angst, and his preoccupation, human existence.
Alois Kohout Lecoque, 1891-1981, artist born in Prague who adopted a French name to help his career. His Rooftops of Prague was presented to our Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Gregor Johann Mendel, 1822-1884, father of the science of genetics. Born in Silesia to poor peasants, he was educated, ultimately developed and published his theory of the elements of heredity that are now known as genes.
Jaroslav Seifert, 1901-1986, Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1984. His poetry, said to lighten hearts, was about his love of Prague, the cruelty of the Nazis, and of humanity.
Jan of Nepomuk (ca. 1345-1393), a national saint of Bohemia. A martyred priest who was drowned in the Vltava at Prague at the hands of King Wenceslaus IV for not revealing what he heard in Confession. Many infant boys were named Jan Nepomuk in Bohemia.