Prague, May 17 (CTK) – American biomedical scientist Jan Vilcek and French linguist Philippe Martin received honorary doctorates from Charles University (UK) in Prague on Wednesday.
Both Vilcek and Martin became well-known already rather early in their lives.
Vilcek, who is of Slovak origin, revealed a substance on which a drug used to treat some serious autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, Remicade, is based. About three million patients have been treated with Remicade so far.
Martin focused on acoustics and linguistics. He designed and made a number of electronic devices for real time analysis of melodies.
Vilcek told CTK in Prague that he had always hoped that his work would have practical results but this was not his primary goal. He said it was a pleasant surprise that the work to which he contributed helped millions of people.
Vilcek comes from a Jewish family. To save their son from persecutions during World War Two, his parents placed him into an orphanage where he attended a Catholic school. His father later joined the Slovak resistance movement and he and his mother were hiding from the Nazis in the countryside.
He said it was Jaroslav Sterzl from the Prague Microbiology Institute who gave him the impulse to pursue a scientific career.
Vilcek published about 350 papers in renowned scientific journals and invented a number of patents. He worked for the Slovak Institute of Virology in Bratislava. In 1964, he and his wife fled Czechoslovakia and they have been living in New York City since 1965.
Martin worked at universities in Canada and Belgium and now he is based at the Paris Diderot University.
Martin has had contacts with Czech linguists since 1970 and intensive cooperation started in the early 1990s, Marie Dohalska, from UK’s French language department, said.