Karel (Charles) Wiesner

Biographical history: A native of Prague, Czechoslovakia, Karel (Charles) Wiesner (1919-1986) began his academic career in an unusual way. Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Wiesner had decided to enrol at Karlova (Charles) Universita, Prague. His plans changed, however, when the German army occupied his country, and subsequently, closed the universities. During the war, Wiesner found work in a hospital research laboratory and in pharmaceutical and analytical firms. He also established a home laboratory so that he could teach himself physical chemistry.

Working on his own, Wiesner discovered a method for measuring certain fast chemical reactions. When Charles University reopened after the war, he was granted a doctorate for his work. For the next two years, Wiesner studied organic chemistry under Prof. Valdo Prelog at E.T.H. in Zurich. In 1948, with the whole-hearted endorsement of Frank Toole, Wiesner, then aged 29, arrived in Fredericton to begin work as Professor of Chemistry at UNB.

A brilliant organic chemist and a highly-respected academic, Wiesner devoted much time to research. His scholarly reputation and his enthusiasm for his work attracted a number of talented Canadian and international scholars to UNB. During his career, he wrote approximately 200 scientific papers, supervised over 80 graduate theses and headed numerous research projects, many of them made possible by industrial funds and National Research Council grants. In fact, his professional reputation was largely responsible for securing research monies which were used to purchase equipment, to fund projects and to support graduate students at UNB. Wiesner also travelled widely, presenting conference papers and lecturing at Canadian, American, British and European universities.

With departmental approval, in 1962 Wiesner accepted the position of associate director of research with Ayerst Research Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company located in Montreal. His work for Ayerst necessitated his absence from UNB. In 1964 he returned to the Chemistry Department to assume the position of Research Professor.

Wiesner's reputation as a fine scholar and his valuable contributions to the field of natural product chemistry won him the admiration and respect of the academic and scientific communities. Over the course of his career he received numerous honours. He was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1957 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1969. The Chemical Institute of Canada awarded him the Palladium Medal in 1963, the institute's highest honour. In addition, Wiesner received several honourary doctor of science degrees as well as the Royal Society of London's Centennial Medal, the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences' Drinov Medal and the American Chemical Society's Ernest Guenther Prize. In 1975 he was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada and the following year was named University Professor, the highest honour UNB awards its working professors. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Rome, honoured him in 1978 by granting him membership. Wiesner died at Fredericton on 28 November 1986 following a lengthy illness.


Archives and Special Collections Department, Faculty Files, "Karel Wiesner".


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Last Update: 2001/12/19