Farewell to Professor Jan Čermák

10. 1. 2022
We say goodbye to an excellent scientist of the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology at Mendel University, to a man who had his own eternal optimism, enthusiasm for scientific work, willingness to discuss scientific issues with anyone at any time, and willingness to share his invaluable experience.

Prof. Ing. Jan Cermak, CSc. (23/07/1938 – 23/12/2021)

On 23rd July, 1938, Jan Čermák was born, as the second son, into the family of MUDr. Václav Čermák. He grew up in an intellectually stimulating environment, and the development of his personality was significantly influenced by scouting. He began researching nature as a high school student – he was accepted into the Czech Ornithological Society and worked with the bird ringing station coordinated by the National Museum in Prague.

He completed his studies at Říčany high school in June 1957 with honours. He then worked until September 1958 as a forestry worker at the Jílové forest enterprise, and completed an advanced course at the Forestry Technical School in Písek in 1960. Between 1960–1965 he studied in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Agriculture in Brno where he graduated with distinction in June 1965.

After completing compulsory military service in September 1966, he joined the Vlašim forest enterprise as a technician. He began his scientific career in December 1966 with a study residence at the Institute of Instrumental Analytical Chemistry of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Brno.

Prof. Čermák joined the Department of Forest Botany and Phytocoenology in 1967 after completing his study residence at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Brno and at the Norwegian Forest Research Institute in Vollebekk. Two years later, he transferred to the department of the international research project MaB, which later became the Department of Forest Ecology. In 2008, after almost 40 years he returned to his parent institution where he then worked for the rest of his life.

Professor Jan Čermák dedicated his entire life to science and achieved extraordinary success in this field. At the beginning of his career, he focused on volatile and liquid fractions of terpenes, secondary metabolites secreted by trees used for their defence and communication. The excretion of terpene substances usually indicates conditioned stress. However, he went on to achieve significant success, in the field of measuring water transpiration and dendronic instrumental analysis of the architecture of large trees, including root systems. He pioneered the use of completely new methods and approaches in these fields. His work is, therefore, highly cited. Of the several hundred published original scientific articles, conference papers, book chapters, and final research reports that bear his name, 139 articles are held in the WoS worldwide scientific database. These excellent articles have so far warranted 5,510 citations, while 15 of them have attained more than 100 citations! His Hirsch Index rating has so far reached 44, making Professor Čermák one of the most cited scientists, not only at our university, but throughout the Czech Republic.

Prof. Čermák gained esteem for the results of his scientific work in the form of membership of international and national institutions. For example, he was vice-chairman of the Whole Plant Physiology Group, IUFRO; a member of the editorial board of Tree Physiology journal, a member of the scientific boards of a number of institutions, and a member of the National Committee of the ASCR for the Geosphere-Biosphere. He lectured at a number of Czech universities, as well as at approximately 50 universities abroad, including Oxford and Harvard. He was involved in many international projects, was a sought-after reviewer of more than 60 scientific journals, an opponent of 35 dissertations or habilitations, and was a supervisor of 20 Czech graduates and Ph.D. students and 30 foreign Ph.D. students.

Professor Čermák was an extraordinary figure in the field of ecophysiology of forest trees, and during his lifetime he was the recipient of honours such as the Dean’s Award of the Faculty of Forestry of the University of Agriculture for scientific results in 1978-1998, Czech Literary Fund Awards, the Section for Scientific Literature (Prague 1981), the Commemorative Medal of the Rector and the Academic Senate of the University of Agriculture  Brno (1986) or the  Mendel University of Agriculture and Forestry Medal for merit in research in the field of tree physiology and long-term pedagogical activity in 2014.

Thanks to his prolific scientific output, thanks to the students he educated, thanks to the School of Dendronic Science, Professor Čermák will live with us for a long time. His footprint at the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology of Mendel University in Brno is indelibly marked not only on the campus in Černá Pole, but also at the School Forest Enterprise in Křtiny, where he conducted his research for many years, especially at the permanent research site in Soběšice.

Dear Professor Čermák, we will never forget you and we will make every effort to faithfully continue along the path you marked out.

May you be remembered with honour!


Photo: Martin Čermák

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