Josef Theurer (1862-1928)

Personality in Science section

Focus Mode

Prof. Dr Josef Theurer became the first rector of Mining University in Příbram. He was one of the most important mining specialists with a focus on mathematical and physical research. Apart from his employment, he was an enthusiastic supporter of amateur theatre in Příbram. He was a pianist, conductor, musicologist and Czech music promoter. He was a close friend to well-known personalities of cultural life – music composer Antonín Dvořák and writer Alois Jirásek.

Josef Theurer was born on 20th November 1862 in Litomyšl to the family of a civil engineer. He studied Grammar School in Litomyšl and continued his studies in Prague when he received his Doctorate degree in Physics in 1885. He worked as an assistant at the Department of Physics and worked on Grammas School in Jindřichův Hradec, Pelhřimov and Prague. In 1895 he received a Doctoral degree at newly established Department of Higher Mathematics and Physics at Mining Academy in Příbram. In 1902 he was appointed professor and in 1904 became the first rector at the university which was newly named Vysoká škola báňská (Mining University). He was in office between years 1904–1905, 1917–1921, 1926–1927.

His scientific activities focused on physical disciplines. He participated in solving problems of theoretical and applied physics, optics, electromagnetism, acoustics, thermodynamics, radiation and other fields. He published dozens of mathematical articles. Theurer coordinated his research with a general trend of many study trips to research facilities in France, Germany, Sweden and remained in touch with his colleagues abroad. He was one of the first physicists to study radiophony and wrote high school physics textbooks written in 1894. His most influential works are Úvod do nauky záření (Introduction to Radiation Study) from 1910, O pokrocích i měření emanace (Progress and Measurement of Emanation) from 1924 and Radioaktivita a názory na hmotu (Radioactivity and Views on Substance) from 1927. More of his essays were published in Hornický věstník (Mining Journal), Báňský svět (Mining World), Časopis pro pěstování matematiky a fyziky (Mathematics and Physics Journal) and other journals. In 1912 he wrote a reflection in the evolution of Czech physics and Památník Vysoké školy báňské v Příbrami za léta 1899 do 1924 (Memorial of Mining University in Příbram from 1899 to 1924) where he followed on the previous history of the school written by Josef Hrabák for years of 1849–1899. Josef Theurer educated many professionals in the field of mining engineering. He was a pianist, conductor, musicologist and enthusiastic promoter of Czech music. Thanks to his work he belongs to a generation of mining technicians who prepared the outset of scientific and technical progress in mining in our country.

Josef Theurer died on 7th September 1928 at the age of 66 years in Příbram. His funeral took place on 9th September 1928 and cremation of his remains happened on 10th September 1928. His remains were stored in Příbram and later in a family grave in his native Litomyšl. The approach of Příbram wasn’t sufficient in the past towards Theurer as an important personality in mining, education and national culture. In 1930 a square in campus building of Mining University was named after him where he successfully let the university during its crisis years.

In 1947 sculptor Václav Šára created a bust of Josef Theurer. Yet, instead of finishing it and placing it on Theurer Square, the area was renamed after communist journalist Julius Fučík during communist totalitarianism in 1951, not to mention that Fučík had nothing in common with the city of Příbram. In connection to return of democracy after November 1989 Příbram aimed to return to some overlooked traditional values. As such the name of prof. Josef Theurer couldn’t have been overlooked. The square was named after him again and bronze bust based on Šára’s model was created in Svojitkova slévárna (foundry) and engineering plant in Stará Huť u Dobříše. The bust was solemnly unveiled on 13th October 2001 during celebrations of 150 years from the establishment of secondary mining education in Příbram. The bust was installed on stone monolith on Josef Theurer Square close to former University of Mining, currently Secondary technical school and Higher professional schools

Author: PaedDr. Josef Velfl, ředitel Hornického muzea Příbram