Herman, Zdenek


August 20, 2022

Zdenek Herman (Czech Zdeněk Herman; March 24, 1934, Libushin - February 25, 2021, Prague) was a Czech physical chemist, known for his work on mass spectrometry and the dynamics of chemical reactions.


Herman was born in the city of Libushin near Prague, studied at the gymnasium in the city of Kladno. Entering Charles University in 1952, he studied physical chemistry, attended lectures by renowned scientists Rudolf Brdicka and Nobel laureate Yaroslav Geyrovsky. In 1957, Herman completed his thesis in radiochemistry under the guidance of František Behounek, whose popular science and adventure books he read as a child. After graduating from the university, the young scientist went to work at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, with which his entire future career was connected. Here, under the guidance of Vladimir Cermak (Czech. Vladimír Čermák), he took up mass spectrometry and in 1963 he defended his Ph.D. thesis on reactions in the ion source of a mass spectrometer. In 1964, Herman got the opportunity to work in the United States and spent a whole year at Yale University, where he joined the group of Professor Richard Wolfgang (German: Richard L. Wolfgang). Subsequently, he returned overseas several times, including in the spring of 1968 he began working at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Here he was caught by the events of the "Prague Spring" and the subsequent entry of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia. Although he was in America with his family and received offers from several universities to stay, Herman returned to Prague the following year. Having the status of unreliable, the scientist for some time lost the opportunity to travel abroad, he was forbidden to teach and have more than one graduate student at a time, so as not to have an “undesirable influence” on young people. However, in 1975 he was allowed to make one foreign visit per year, in 1980 he worked as a visiting professor at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics in the United States, and in the second half of the 1980s he took part in the work of the Committee on Atomic and Molecular Data of the International agency for atomic energy and the development of the Soviet interplanetary mission "Phobos-1". Remembering the times after the Prague Spring,