October 19, 2020: we celebrate 100 years since the first lecture at the faculty

100 years of education, of research and development. From 9 students in the first year of teaching to 3040 students today. From the provisory solution to the modern complex on Kotlářská and the Bohunice campus. Let us celebrate it :-). 

19 Oct 2020 Zuzana Jayasundera

View of the park in front of the dean's office in a historical photograph (undated). Photo: MU Archive.

Today it is exactly 100 years since the day when teaching began at our faculty. On October 19, 1920, as the oldest faculty of science in former Czechoslovakia, PřF MU began its primary, educational mission with the first lecture. Over the past hundred years, it has prepared thousands of scientists, professionals, science and mathematics teachers for their professional life, a benefit that benefits our entire society; a result that the faculty can be justifiably proud of, as well as a success worth remembering on this jubilee day. 

However, let us go back 100 years and ask who started teaching and when or who was the first dean of the faculty. Let us recall what the daily faculty life of the first students and teachers looked like. How much has it changed? 

The first year at the oldest faculty of science in Czechia

Our faculty was founded in 1919, as we remembered last year with the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Masaryk University. After certainly hectic months of preparation and demanding administrative processes, teaching at the faculty began in the autumn semester of 1920. The opening lecture entitled On Pairs of Rows was given on 19th October by Professor Matyáš Lerch. The first lectures and internships took place in October 1920 in the lecture halls of mineralogy and geology as well as in the practices of chemistry at the Technical University. Professor Bohumil Kužma was elected the first dean for the school year 1920–1921. He moved from Brno technology and taught inorganic chemistry. The vice-dean was a mineralogist, Professor Vojtěch Rosický. Only nine students attended the faculty this year. 

Teaching at the faculty could begin in full in the school year 1921/1922, when the pavilions of the former poorhouse on Kotlářská Street were adapted for the needs of the faculty, which, after several reconstructions and modernizations, serve the faculty to this day and which, since 2010, have been supplementing with the Bohunice University Campus. 

Life at the faculty 100 years ago 

The start of teaching at the faculty was a big step in the development of higher education in what was then Czechoslovakia. Little is known that this was the first science faculty in the country! What did everyday life at the faculty look like? Arnošt Okáč recalled his first years at the faculty, studying chemistry and mathematics at the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University in 1922–1926, and later working as a professor at the Institute of Analytical Chemistry, as follows: 

"Despite all the difficulties and improvisations, the students were in a good mood and a study spirit. With a small number of students, everyone at the faculty knew each other well not only with professors, but also with each other. On an excursion with prof. Interested parties of all disciplines walked through support, ÚlehlaZavřelRosický. Excursions used to be most often on Sundays and I have the best memories of the sociability and well-being of these excursions. Interestingly, I also completed a microscopic internship led by prof. In addition to some lectures in the field of biology and lectures at the Faculty of Arts. At that time, the interests of students used to be a bit broader and it was quite successful in time, even though we studied chemistry mostly from German textbooks. It was also not uncommon for students in other disciplines to visit us in makeshift chemical laboratories, where we each had our own place and where we almost lived from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. […] The laboratories worked very hard, and yet there was still plenty of time, especially during the lengthy annealing in gravimetry, to lead excited discussions about politics, culture and sport, which often ended in quarrels. These were forgotten the next day, because the discussion was transferred to another, more current field that day, [because] the daily press provided enough stimuli for problems that excited young people.” A. Okáč on the beginnings of analytical chemistry at the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Universitatis 1969. 

So, what do you think has changed in the daily life of the faculty when we neglect the change of space and equipment? :-) 

A view of the park in front of the Dean's Office of the Faculty of Science, Masaryk University in 2019. Photo: Libor Teplý.

Faculty at present 

Today the faculty presents many scientific achievements of international significance. Priority topics of specific research are focused on the development of natural sciences. A substantial part of the research activities of the faculty is also devoted to non-specific research, which is closely related to teaching in doctoral study programs. Students have had many opportunities to get involved in research since the beginning of their bachelor's studies. In the current evaluation of the scientific performance of individual workplaces, our Faculty is among the top four in the Czech Republic in most fields. 

As stated by the Dean of the Faculty, Associate Professor Tomáš Kašparovský, “We are proud that the laboratory and study facilities of both our campuses reach world standards and attract professionals and students from all over the world. We wish that to be the case in the next hundred years that we are just entering." 

 Dear faculty, all the best for your anniversary! 

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