Institute of Geophysics of the CAS, v. v. i.


History of the Geophysical Institute

History of the Geophysical Institute

The Geophysical Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences has followed a considerably long tradition connected with the interest in natural sciences. Abrupt increase in demanding more scientific knowledge in natural sciences was caused by an extensive exploitation of metals, metal ores and other minerals during the Middle-Ages. There is well-documented historical mining activity in Bohemia in areas of Kutná Hora, Jihlava and Příbram, among others. As a consequence great scientific progress has been done in geology and mineralogy. As far as the CharlesUniversity in Prague (founded in 1348 by the emperor Charles IV.) was the education centre within the former Central Europe, natural sciences were lectured there since 1622.

In 1760 the first mining Academy in Europe was established in Banská Bystrica (in Slovakia, former part of Czechoslovakia) where all the fundamental mining and geo-physical disciplines, including forestry, were lectured and practiced. Ten years later, in 1770, Private Society for Sciences (forerunner of today’s Academy of Sciences) was established in Prague, being promoted and finally accomplished by Ignác Born, a top mid-European mineralogist and geologist of the time. Starting with the year 1771, the systematic daily measurements of the surface air temperature have been made in the JesuitAcademy in the ClementinumCollege in Prague. Also the sequence of regular precipitation measurements began in 1804 as one of the eldest ones in Central Europe. Geomagnetic measurements were started here in 1839, when Carl Kreil put into operation one of the eldest geomagnetic observatories at the GermanUniversity in Prague. The first relative pendulum measurements of gravity were carried out in the mines of Příbram in 1882 by R. Sterneck-Doudlebský and were conducted with pendulum of his own original construction. In the mine area of Příbram, the seismological experiments made by H. Bendorf took place in 1903/5 (two Wiechert seismographs installed). In 1908, the seismological station, led by G. Irgang, began to operate permanently in Cheb in order to provide for instrumental records of earthquake swarms occurring in the region of Vogtland. After the declaration of the CzechoslovakRepublic in 1918, the State Institute of Geophysics was created in 1920.

The first director was Václav Láska, and main research activities consisted in regular field measurements and interpretation of results for gravitational, seismic, geomagnetic, geoelectric, geothermic and radioactive geophysical fields. Systematic geophysical mapping of the state territory was performed. In 1924, a 1000 kg Wiechert horizontal seismograph was installed in the seismic station of CharlesUniversity in Prague. During the Second World War, the State Institute of Geophysics was dissolved, and the geophysical activities were partly carried out in the Institute for Geophysics of the PragueGermanUniversity, partly they declined. In the post-war period it was namely Alois Zátopek who formulated new program of Czechoslovak geophysical research and organised lecturing of geophysical disciplines at the CharlesUniversity. The state Geophysical Institute, re-established and reconstructed after 1945, was implemented in 1950 into the new state institution of fundamental research – the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. New permanent geophysical observatories were founded there during the 60-th and 70-th, e.g. geomagnetic, seismological and telluric observatory in Průhonice, electromagnetic and telluric observatory in Budkov, a tidal station in the mines of Příbram and the seismic station in Kašperské Hory. In this period, Vít Kárník, whose Mid-European, Balcan and All-European seismic catalogues have served as a basic tool for European seismicity studies, reached fundamental achievements in the field of seismicity. His macroseismic intensity scale (Medveděv-Sponheuer-Kárník, MSK 1964) is up to now used for earthquake intensity assessments.

Scientific reputation of the Geophysical Institute in the international geophysical community is quite high. Many ideas, algorithms, results of experimental works developed and obtained in the institute are used worldwide. One example among others is the very broadband seismic recording equipment developed by researchers of the Geophysical Institute. The equipment was put into operation at seismic station Kašperské Hory in 1973, and made the station one of the first very broadband seismic stations operated routinely in the world. Due to their reputation, researchers of the Geophysical Institute are often invited to participate in various international geophysical projects, conferences and other activities.

The Geophysical Institute represents today a fairly compact body subdivided into five scientific departments covering major geophysical disciplines: seismology, heat-flow and radiometry, geomagnetism, geoelectricity, gravity and geodynamics. The activities of the Geophysical Institute include, above all, observatory and field measurements for the purpose of continuous monitoring of various geophysical fields on the territory of the CzechRepublic connected with adjacent areas within central Europe.  It also covers co-operation with world-wide data network services and data centres, geophysical studies of the lithosphere structure, laboratory investigations of physical properties of rocks, crustal studies, theoretical and numerical modelling of geophysical fields, interpretation of geophysical data, climatic changes in connection with solar activity and solar motion.

Directors of the Geophysical Institute:
1920 -             Prof. Václav Láska
1945 -             Prof. Alois Zátopek
1957 -             dr. Bouška
                      ing. Miloš Pick, DrS.
1969 - 1990     akademik Václav Bucha, DrSc.
1990 - 1998     RNDr. Vladimír Čermák, DrSc.
1998 - 2007     RNDr. Aleš Špičák, CSc.
2007 -             RNDr. Pavel Hejda, CSc.