Chester Martin Remembers Dr. Karel Hujer

Friday, November 20, 2015

When Dr. Karel Hujer arrived in Chattanooga shortly after WWII he was easily the most highly educated member of the University of Chattanooga faculty. His degree was "Doctor of Science", (D.Sc.) from Prague's ancient Charles University in Czechoslovakia. He received further education in Ancient Astronomy in many parts of the world, including Paris, London, Egypt, Mexico, and Peru.

Dr. Karel Hujer was brought here by Dr.

David A. Lockmiller, then President of the University of Chattanooga. Hujer was delighted to come here as Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy to become Director of the Clarence T. Jones observatory, recently acquired by the university.

He was a Christian and frequently quoted from St. Francis of Assisi in his public lectures, although he was also steeped in Ancient Indian lore: Hujer had lived on two occasions with Mahatma Gandhi at Gandhi's ashram at Santiniketan, West Bengal, India. Hujer was much inspired by, and influenced by Gandhi's Pacifism. He brought those ideas to Chattanooga. When Gandhi died, he was invited to his funeral.

Harriet Hujer, Karel's wife, was from Chicago, and was devoted to her husband, doing all she could to promote him and his ideas. She kept his calendar loaded with speaking engagements - to civic and church groups, largely, and was the perfect hostess for frequent house-guests and small, informal dinner parties at their home. Karel introduced Chattanoogans to many bits of East Indian culture that he had learned on-site in India.

Karel Hujer became a very popular teacher, first at the University of Chattanooga, and later at UTC. The wave of former military personnel who came to his classes on the GI Bill at the end of WWII were some of the finest and most dedicated students I have ever seen. Several of these became life-long friends of both Karel and Harriet.

Frequently in the summers Karel would be off to Europe, while Harriet would return to her Chicago roots to work, and be with family. Karel was a naturalized U.S. citizen, but loved to return to his native Czechoslovakia (Bohemia) where he had many scientific and familiar connections. (These were "Cold War" years, and the Communists had a strangle-hold on that country). He was always invited to speak - and his lectures got him in trouble with the Communist authorities, who BANNED him from ever returning.

Before he died, he was able to see the end to Communism, however, and he did numerous mailings to "anyone" in his native land, trying to encourage opposition to the Communists. I doubt that his mailings met with much more than a smile by those who saw them, but shortly after he died the entire Communist system collapsed. Sad that he did not live to see it. But the new Czech Republic issued a postage stamp in his honor to commemorate those efforts and acknowledge his life in Science.

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )

Dr. Karel Hujer
Dr. Karel Hujer


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