Prof. Antonín Svoboda
October 14, 1907 in Prague – May 18, 1980 in Portland, Oregon, USA
Professor Svoboda is indisputably connected with the genesis of computers not only in the Czech context, but also worldwide. While working at the MIT Radiation Laboratory in the USA during World War II, Prof. Svoboda has collaborated with personalities like Aiken, von Neumann, Wiener, Shannon, and others. There he has substantially contributed to the construction of a mechanical analog computer that was a part of an anti-aircraft targeting system MARK 56. Successful deployment of the system during the war brought Prof. Svoboda well-deserved recognition. In 1948 he received the Naval Ordnance Development Award
. In the same year he published a monograph entitled Computing Mechanisms and Linkages
, which summarized all results of the then-current research. It is considered to be worldwide the first book on computer design.
After the war, Prof. Svoboda has returned to his homeland, Czechoslovakia. After a few years he defended the degree of an associate professor (docent) in the Department of Mathematics at the Czech Technical University in Prague (CTU). In 1952 he became the head of a newly established Institute of Mathematical Machines of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences. There he created a team of talented young collaborators, with whom he soon finished the design of the first Czechoslovak relay-based computer named SAPO. At the end of the 50s, in the institute that was renamed as Research Institute for Mathematical Machines (VÚMS), Prof. Svoboda started a new project to design an electron-tube-based computer EPOS. For political reasons, however, Prof. Svoboda was removed from the lead position of the institute. The incompetent communist management of the institute started to increasingly limit his research activities and collaboration with others. In the summer of 1964 Prof. Svoboda escaped the communist country, and with a group of close collaborators immigrated to the USA. There he soon received a professor position at the University of California in Los Angeles, where he spent many creative years.
In the year of 1999, Czech president Václav Havel has awarded Professor Svoboda the Czech Medal of Merit of the 1st degree in memoriam (medaile Za zásluhy 1. Stupně). The Czech Technical University in Prague has not yet found a suitable way to honor its famous alumnus and teacher. By establishing the Prof. Svoboda Series of Distinguished Lectures, CTU’s Faculty of Information Technology attempts to help new generations of its students and alumni to recognize the importance of this extraordinary personality in establishing and developing the field of their studies.