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Vladimir Vanysek (1926–1997)

Published onJan 01, 1997
Vladimir Vanysek (1926–1997)

John Irwin Slide Collection

AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Vladimir Vanysek, professor emeritus of astrophysics at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, died in Prague on 27 July 1997 after a long, severe illness at the age of 70. He was born on 8 August 1926 in Prague, graduated in 1950 from Masa University, Brno, and received a PhD in astrophysics from Charles University in 1956, with a thesis entitled "Dispersion of Velocities and Masses of B Stars."

From 1956 to 1958, Vanysek was director of the Astronomical Institute at Masa University, Brno, then a member of the Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of Czechoslovakia in Prague. In 1960, he became a member of Charles University, where he served as Dean and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics from 1961 to 1965. Appointed to a full professorship in 1968, he headed the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics from 1970 to 1986 and from 1987 to 1990, he was visiting professor at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany, replacing Jurgen Rahe as director of the Dr. Remeis Observatory (Bamberg).

Vladimir's main research interest was in comets, initially their photometry, and, in later years, chemical processes in them and in interplanetary and interstellar material (for instance evolution of the carbon isotope ratio). Recently he also contributed to cosmology. Asteroid No. 6426 was named "Vanysek" in honor of his achievements in investigations of small bodies in the solar system. Vanysek published more than 250 articles on these topics, served on the editorial board of Astrophysics and Space Science and, during his last years, was editor of Earth, Moon, and Planets. From 1967 to 1970, he was vice-president and then president of IAU Commission 15 (Physical Study of Comets, Minor Planets, and Meteorites). Between 1984 and 1987, he was Discipline Specialist for Photometry and Polarimetry in the International Halley Watch (IHW) as well as being a member of the IHW steering group.

Vanysek's activities led to many invitations to work abroad, beginning with work at Hamburg Observatory with K. Rohlfs and H. Haffner in 1961, and in 1968-69, at the University of Massachusetts (during which time he joined AAS). Later visits included the Technical University (Berlin) with J. Rahe in 1974, University of Manchester with Z. Kopal in 1978, and several longer stays at the University of Maryland, working with M. A'Hearn on comet issues. He also worked on ISO observations of comets with H. Fechtig and E. Gruen at the Max-Planck-Institute of Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg and visited Bamburg Observatory many times.

Vladimir Vanysek was an excellent teacher for several generations of Czech astronomers, author of introductory textbooks, and enthusiastic supporter of younger colleagues. He continued during his Bamberg days the supervision of graduate students who later became his co-workers and friends.

Besides all his scientific merits, he will be remembered best by those who could enjoy his company, for his warm, selfless personality and modesty. His wife, Marta, died in 1987, and Vanysek is survied by his daughter Marcela and his son Petr.

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