Vladimír Sládecek (1924-2005)

Vladimír Sládecek (1924-2005)

We paid last tributes to our colleague Professor Dr. Vladimir Sladeček on 1 July 2005 at Prague crematorium. Vladimir Sladeček was a leading Czech hydrobiologist, and for long-time a SIL representative of former Czechoslovakia and editor of the SIL Proceedings. Vladimir was born in Hořovice near Prague, and had a simple early life. He graduated in natural history and geography in 1949 at the Faculty of Science, Charles University. In 1950, he obtained the academic degree Rerum Naturalium Doctor (RNDr.) based on his thesis “Hydrobiological Relations of the Ponds of Padrť with special reference to the Cladoceran Holopedium.

Vladimir was employed for a short time at the State Hydrological Institute of T. G. Masaryk, Prague, where he also worked as a graduate student at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague under the supervision of Dr. Vladimir Maděra. On successfully defending his thesis, “Studies of the Biological Treatment of Sewage by Activated Sludge Processes,” he was conferred the academic degree Candidate of Technical Sciences (CSc.–then equivalent of Ph.D). Therafter, Dr. Sladeček worked at the newly-established Department of Water Technology at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague, where he became Associate Professor in Hydrobiology (1956). Since hydrobiology was a new discipline for technical studies, Dr. Sladeček adapted his lectures and seminars such that these were comprehensible and useful for the future water management engineers and other technical people.

By 1968 Dr. Sladeček had an impressive series of scientific publications, for which he received great appreciation from the international scientific community. This also earned him the award of Doctor Scientiarum (Dr.Sc.), the highest scientific degree of the Charles University, Prague. This was a prerequisite for his nomination as a university professor in 1985. Dr Sladeček dissertation – “The System of Water Quality” – was published in 1973 in Ergebnisse der Limnologie (Arch. Hydrobiol.) as a modified version “The System of Water Quality from the Biological Point of View.”

Dr. Sladeček married Dr. Alena Sladečkova (nee Vinnikova), also a hydrobiologist, specialized in phycology and applied hydrobiology. The couple were life-long co-workers and had three children. Despite being a mother and keeping a household, Alena was always an important source of encouragement and support to her husband in all situations–good or bad, that life brings with it.

Vladimir’s professional career was not without difficulties: since he never joined the Communist Party, he had to compensate this by vigorous and hard work Vladimír Sládeček, 1924-2005 as a professional. He kept numerous contacts with both national and international institutions and eminent scientists. Vladimir was capable of tactical communication with people and dealt with each and every issue with earnestness and humbleness. He was often invited to international symposia and conferences for lectures and visits, where he almost always presented not only his own valuable scientific results but also those of his Czech and Slovak colleagues. He helped young trainees in limnology in both conceptual and methodological matters. He always emphasised the quality of the scientific results, their promotion and application. Dr. Sladeček always delighted his audiences with his balanced, lucid and critical lectures and expected the same from others. He was helpful and friendly, but unyielding when he believed he was right. He had a good humour and, when the situation called for, could be ironical.

Dr. Sladeček’s had a wide range of scientific interests: early on his scientific career, he devoted his attention to the zooplankton in reservoirs and small bodies of water. He published a series of works on the taxonomy and biology of protozoa, rotifers and crustaceans. However, Dr. Sladeček’s lifelong hobby and the main focus of scientific work were the assessment of water quality (saprobiology).

In the 1950s he published several textbooks for the university students, which he later relentlessly updated and extended for revised editions. Because of the critical shortage of original scientific literature in Czechoslovakia after the WW II, Dr. Sladeček co-authored the book “Biological Methods of Water Assessment” in 1959 with Ladislav Hanuška (Editor). Together with Miloš Zelinka he published in 1964 the first Czech textbook of its kind – Hydrobiology in Water Management.

Because literature on saprobiology in post-war Czechoslovakia was available only in the German language (e.g. works by H. Liebmannin), Dr. Sladeček updated and applied a system of water quality assessment, using biological indicators such as saprobity, toxicity and radioactivity. He extended the Pantle-Buck scale of saprobity and tried to find relationships among saprobity, trophic degree, hydrochemistry and aquatic organisms. He used both his saprobiological findings and those of his contemporaries (for example, R. Šramek-Hušek, Z. Cyrus, M. Zelinka, P. Marvan, J. Rotschein) and his predecessors, and came up with a first, extensive list of aquatic organisms (ca.5.000 taxons from bacteria to aquatic vertebrates) and assessed their tolerance to and close relationships with waterquality.

The Sládeček’s System of Water quality Assessment was adopted by the then Czechoslovak authorities as a State Water Treatment Norm (1976-1977). A Sub-Commission of the former Council for Mutual Economic Assistance accepted Dr. Sladeček’s Methods of Biological Assessment, and had them published in different languages of the countries belonging to the former Soviet block. Together with H. A. Hawks and E. Fjerdingstad, Dr. Sladeček also prepared the European Manual of Water Assessment Methods (1977) for the World Health Organization. A modified version of this was later published in Japanese.

The list of Dr. Sladeček’s publications is clear proof of his diligence and hard work. It comprises about 350 published works out of which 250 are original papers. In addition to scientific papers, he published monographs, textbooks, and encyclopedias on aquatic organisms that are still being employed in the fields of science, water management and health care.

Dr. Sladeček presented his works at numerous international conferences and symposia and prepared these for the UNO and WHO. He was a very active SIL member and editor of the SIL conference proceedings for many years. The honoraria enabled him to pay SIL membership fees for about 35 of his professional colleagues in his country. He was also an active member of ASLO, FBA, Czech Limnological Society, and other Czech and Czechoslovak scientific societies. He actively worked in editorial boards of several international scientific journals: Hydrobiologia (Dordrecht ), Acta Hydrochimica et Hydrobiologica (Dresden), Archiv für Hydrobiologie (Stuttgart) and Water Management (Prague).

Dr. Sladeček received several national (Schulz Medal, Purkyně Medal of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Masaryk Medal) and international awards (Honourable Mention from Syracuse University, USA; Silver Medal of Universidad Nacional Autonoma – Mexico; Silver Badge of Japanese Zoological Society; the Einar Naumann – August Thienemann Medal De limnologia optime merito SIL; etc.).

It was a great honour for us to work with Dr. Sladeček, and we are grateful for his ideas, criticism and encouragement that gave greater purpose to our discussions and our professional careers. Dr. Sladeček will be always remembered as a leading figure in the history of both Czech and international hydrobiology.