The Czechoslovak Review/Volume 3/Prague University Honors Prof. Simek

4464244The Czechoslovak Review, volume 3, no. 9 — Prague University Honors Prof. Simek1919Jaroslav Victor Nigrin

Prague University Honors Prof. Simek

By Jaroslav Victor Nigrin.

It was a pleasant surprise to tens of thousands of people who know Professor Bohumil Šimek personally, when they read the announcement last month that the ancient University of Prague conferred upon Professor Šimek the honorary degree of doctor of philosophy. For Šimek is not only a scholar whose scientific achievements entitle him to honors from institutions of learning, but he is also a man of public spirit, a popular speaker and a leader of his people.

He was born on a small farm near Shueyville, Iowa, on June 25, 1861. His father was one of those patriots who in 1848 took an active part in the revolutionary movement in Bohemia, and when the absolutist regime was restored, he was object of so much attention on the part of Austrian authorities that he emigrated to America in 1856. Young Bohumil received his first education on the Iowa prairie, and helping his father with farm work he learned to love Nature, to the study of which he later devoted his life. After passing through public schools in Iowa City he entered the Iowa State University and graduated in 1883 as civil engineer. He felt no desire for a money-making career, and devotion to pure science and desire to make himself useful to the community led him to become a teacher. For two years after his graduation he taught at the Iowa City Academy. In 1865 we find him doing advanced work at the Johns Hopkins Marine Laboratory at Beaufort, N. C. From 1885 to 1888 he was science teacher at the Iowa City High School.

His career up to now had been similar to that of thousands of young men, born in this country of Bohemian parents. But whereas most of these young doctors and lawyers and businessmen pick up just enough of their mother’s speech to talk to their Bohemian clients and customers, young Šimek knew the language of his parents as well, as he knew the language of his native country. It is interesting, almost startling to those who know something of Bohemian life in America, to find that this high school teacher who had never been within five thousand miles of Bohemia, made use of vacation time to teach children of Bohemian settlers in Iowa, how to read and write the language of their parents.

During these years Šimek published his first papers on geology and zoology, and the work was so good that he was called to be instructor in the University of Nebraska. He was there from 1888 to 1890, when he returned to his Alma Mater, the Iowa State University, to be instructor in the department of botany. He was promoted successively to assistant professor, professor, head of department, and now is director of the Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, In 1912, 1916 and 1918 Prof. Šimek was directing chiefly research work in botany.

In 1902 he had completed work for doctor’s degree, but expecting to take it in Prague only accepted in Iowa the degree of Master of Science. His long projected visit to Europe and Bohemia was delayed by repeated sickness in the family. Finally he went across in 1914, and for one semester he lectured at the Prague University on plant ecology, thus inaugurating an exchange of professors between the oldest university of Central Europe and the very modern state universities of America. It was in appreciation of his scientific work and of his courtesy in lecturing at the university that the Prague university senate decided to confer upon him the honorary degree of doctor of philosophy, but the outbreak of the war made the postponement necessary till the present happier days, when Prague and Bohemia are free again.

Professor Šimek was married in June 23, 1886,, to Miss Anna E. Konvalinka. They have five children: Ella, high school teacher; Bertha, married to Dr. P. J. Hanzlik, of Cleveland; Anna, married to M. O. Hanzlik of Cedar Rapids, Ia.; Vlasta, married to Dr. George Křepelka of Staceyville, Ia., and Frank who has recently returned from service in the Navy to his studies at the University. In addition to Šimek’s son all his sons-in-law were in the service of the United States during the war.

Much of Šimek’s wonderful energy was devoted to the welfare of his kinsmen by blood—Americans of Czechoslovak descent. A sturdy American himself, he does not believe that Americanization consists in throwing away old traditions and spiritual inheritance of the old European stock; on the contrary, he wants such values saved and added to the intellectual stock of American wealth. Above all he desires to give a broad education to the younger generation of his people which had been denied to their parents. He helped to organize and is now the president of the “Council of Higher Education” (Matice Vyššího Vzdělání), a foundation which made it possible for scores of the young Bohemian-Americans to attend college.

When war broke out and the dawn of Czechoslovak independence could be seen on the reddened skies of Europe, Professor Šimek was among the leaders of the movement in America from the beginning. He was chairman of the Iowa District of the Bohemian National Alliance, and when later all the Czech and Slovak organizations, working for the independence of their old home, combined into one central body, Šimek was unanimously made president of the new American Czechoslovak Board. At the same time he took a prominent part in the various war activities of the American government, making addresses in hundreds of towns in the Central Western States.

Professor B. Šimek is a great scholar, great teacher, great citizen. His people love and respect him, and they are pleased to see that his value is appreciated both here and abroad.

Profesor Bohumil Šimek is member of the following scientific societies:

American Association for the Advancement of Science (vicepresident in 1911.)

Geological Society of America.

Botanical Society of America.

Iowa Academy of Science (expresident).

St. Louis Academy of Sciences.

Washington Academy of Sciences.

Iowa Conservation Association (member of Advisory Board).

Sigma Xi.

Baconian Club, State University of Iowa.

Honorary Member of the Botanical Society of Bohemia.

Honorary Chairman of the Geological Section of the Medical and Natural Science Congress, held in Prague, June 1914.

Traveled extensively in connection with fieldwork in botany and geology, made about 20 trips west of Texas, to Southern California, Northern Mexico, Central America, visited nearly all the states of the Union, Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland. Iowa was covered by him very thoroughly, especially in conection with the study of the causes of treelessness of the prairies (botanical), and of the genesis of the loess (geological). He held a number of honorary public offices in Iowa City and is a high degree Mason.

The results of Dr. Šimek’s scientific works have been published in 113 reports and monographs, bulletins and scientific papers. Lack of space does not permit their complete enumeration. They may be summarized as follows: 37 papers dealt with geology, 45 with botany, 12 with zoology, and 19 with diverse topics. Šimek is primarily a botanist, but his study of extinct types led him into geology, in which field he made important original contributions. His theory regarding the aerial deposit of loess in Iowa, at first hotly contested, was finally proved and accepted.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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