Vaclav Horak (1922-2014)

A long-time SVU member, Dr. Václav Horák passed away on January 12, 2014 at the age of 91. He was born in Prague on December 9, 1922. His university education was interrupted by the World War II. After Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany, he was forced to work in German labor camps in 1941 for the duration of the war. After the war he continued his education at Charles University, receiving his doctorate in organic chemistry in 1948.

He was associated with Charles Univ. (s. 1948), becoming university assistant the same year, a ‘pro dean’ during 1955-57 and a docent in 1959. In 1968 he left for the US, where he was soon joined by his wife Zdena and son David. He accepted professorship in chemistry at Georgetown Univ. in Washington, DC, becoming professor emeritus in 1992. During his productive career at Charles Univ. and at Georgetown he mentored over 70 students for M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. He wrote several books and numerous articles on organic synthesis and chemistry of sulfur compounds. He organized the First International Symposium on Sulfur Chemistry which continues to date. Dr. Horák as an authority on organic electrochemistry, organic synthesis, quinines and redox polymers, pharmaceuticals.

He loved the outdoors, camping, canoeing, skiing, hiking and travel, having visited five of the seven continents. He was an amateur photographer, a connoisseur of music, who played original pieces on the piano. It was also his music which supported his spirit during the last six years of his life when he was struck by complete blindness. Eva and I have known him well ever since he and his wife moved to Bethesda and we became close friends. He had a keen interest in everything and everybody. Vašek was a great friend and we, as well as his many good friends, will all mourn his demise.