In memoriam of Jiri Bicak

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As he would have likely put it, the worldline of Jiri Bicak, relativist, mentor, and an 82-year-young renaissance man, came to its end in Prague on January 26, 2024.

Jiri Bicak’s scientific worldline started in Prague, where he earned his doctoral degree in theoretical physics under the supervision of Miroslav Brdicka at Charles University in 1968. Three years later, a postdoctoral stay in the group of Kip Thorne at Caltech bolstered his passion for general relativity, a passion that drove his further research and professional career. Back in Prague at Charles University, Jiri launched a rigorous course on relativistic physics, followed by a course on differential geometry and a relativity seminar. The growing numbers of his students and research colleagues organically led to the formation of the Prague relativity group, which has been flourishing ever since. Throughout the years and especially after the Velvet Revolution of 1989, Jiri maintained close scientific and personal contacts with leading relativity groups worldwide, with those in Cambridge, in Garching and later in Golm particularly dear to him.

Jiri’s scientific appetites included (but were not limited to) the physics and mathematics of black holes, gravitational radiation theory, the asymptotic structure of spacetimes, exact solutions of Einstein’s field equations, cosmological models, conservation laws, relativistic astrophysics, non-linear electrodynamics, relativistic thermodynamics, and quantum effects in curved spacetimes. The body of scientific work by Jiri and his students would be humbling even had it come from a professor at Caltech; coming from a researcher in post-communist Eastern Europe it is nothing short of singular.

Jiri Bicak has inspired and touched the lives of many, not only by his deep passion for science and scientific rigor, but also by his broad outlook on the world beyond science, his firmly rooted humanism, and his love of music, literature, and the fine arts. Jiri’s sharp wit and sense of humor will be missed by his friends and colleagues.

David Heyrovsky, David Kofron, David Kubiznak