Skip to main content

Professors Cech and Michor receive honorary doctorates from MU

On the proposal of the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University awarded honorary doctorates to Thomas Robert Cech, who is also a Nobel laureate, and Peter Wolfram Michor in the Karel Engliš Auditorium today.

Masaryk University awards its highest honour – the doctor honoris causa degree – to outstanding personalities whose extraordinary creative contribution to the development of science, art and culture is internationally recognised. On 25 April, two more names were added to the list of laureates: Professors Thomas Robert Cech, who has made a significant contribution to the development of the field of biological sciences, and Peter Wolfram Michor, who has made a significant contribution to the development of the field of mathematics.

Ceremony of awarding honorary doctorates.

Both nominations were unanimously approved by the Scientific Board of Masaryk University. “Both Professor Cech and Professor Michor are among the leaders in their fields with a significant international reach. However, I consider it equally important that in both cases the honorary doctorate is awarded to someone who has worked with Masaryk University for a long time and has a close relationship with it. Therefore, I see today's honorary doctorates not only as an expression of our recognition of their lifelong work and achievements in the field of life sciences and mathematics, but also as an expression of our gratitude for their significant contribution to the development of these disciplines at Masaryk University,” said Martin Bareš, Rector of Masaryk University, in his opening speech at the ceremony.

Thomas Robert Cech

The Dean of the Faculty of Science, Tomáš Kašparovský, said that by awarding the honorary doctorate, Masaryk University was honouring Professor Cech for his life's work as a scientist, educator and populariser, and was honouring a personality who had not only made a significant contribution to the development of life sciences at the Faculty of Science, but who was also constantly developing its scientific culture and excellence and spreading the good name of Masaryk University throughout the world.

Thomas R. Cech (on the left).

“Thomas R. Cech approaches every collaboration with great generosity and has long supported the expertise in science and research at our university. He was the keynote speaker at the Mendel 200 conference hosted by Masaryk University in 2022. He does not hesitate to contribute to the popularisation of science in the Czech Republic, as shown by his appearance on the Czech TV programme ‘Hyde Park civilizace’, where he talked about the most modern scientific approaches with humour and the insight of a true expert and experienced populariser. An interesting tidbit I would like to share with you is that the producers of the programme described his appearance as the most entertaining and comparable only to that of the Dalai Lama,” said Dean Tomáš Kašparovský in his speech.

Professor Cech is the world's leading experimental biochemist and biophysicist and one of the world’s leading researchers, as evidenced by the many honours he has received. In addition to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, he has received many other national and international prizes and awards. In his speech at Masaryk University, the scientist, who has Czech roots, described how his grandparents came to the US. He recalled Iowa City, where his family moved and where the University of Iowa is located, which was the first institution of his scientific research, and described the path to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. “Today I would like to pay tribute to the students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers whose creativity and hard work drive discovery. The greatest joy of being a professor lies not only in scientific progress, but also in mentoring trainees who are learning, challenging current models and maturing as independent researchers. It is on their behalf that I accept this honorary degree from Masaryk University,” said Thomas R. Cech at the end of his speech before receiving the honorary doctorate.

Peter Wolfram Michor

According to the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Tomáš Kašparovský, Peter Wolfram Michor’s extraordinary activity and his extremely broad scope and perspective were undoubtedly key impulses for Brno's development in several mathematical directions based on the geometric approach and for Masaryk University’s very good position in these areas in international comparison.

Peter W. Michor (on the left).

Peter Wolfram Michor is one of the world’s leading experts in mathematics and its applications. He was born on 20 May 1949 in Villach, graduated from the University of Vienna in 1973 in functional analysis under the supervision of Johann Cigler, habilitated at the same university in 1977, and has been an associate professor there since 1990, retiring in 2010. His research has always systematically aimed at a natural and complete understanding of the nature of the mathematical objects and contexts being constructed.  “Peter W. Michor’s direct influence on mathematics at Masaryk University dates back to the 1980s. Since 1985 he has been working with mathematicians in Brno on a modern revision of the foundations of differential geometry and its transfer to applications. To this end, he obtained the equivalent of a diplomatic passport so that, together with Ivan Kolář, he could organise the ‘Central European Seminar’ in Brno once a month. This research platform has been active since 1986, initially once a month, but now two or three times a semester. The most visible result of the work of this seminar is the monograph Natural Operations in Differential Geometry, published by Springer in 1993. It is a work of mathematics and physics that is still widely cited today,” described Dean Tomáš Kašparovský.

Peter W. Michor himself confirmed that his ties with the mathematical community at Masaryk University are deep. “I am proud to have contributed, at least in part, to the initial impetus for the establishment of the field of parabolic geometry. It emerged as an independent mathematical discipline, not in one of the traditional leading mathematical centres such as the east or west coast of the USA, Oxford, Cambridge, Paris or Moscow, but rather in the interconnected triangle of Brno, Prague and Vienna. And this development has undoubtedly put the Masaryk University on the mathematical map,” said Michor, thanking the Masaryk University for awarding him the title of Doctor honoris causa. “This esteemed recognition is a great honour for me, which I accept with deep appreciation and humility. By accepting this honorary degree, I pledge to continue my efforts in scholarship, innovation and the advancement of mathematics. I am deeply grateful for this recognition and look forward to continuing my cooperation with Masaryk University.”