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Jirí Václav Daneš (1880–1928)

by Michael J. Cigler

This article was published:

Jirí Václav Daneš (1880-1928), geographer, was born on 23 August 1880 at Nový Dvůr, Bohemia (Czechoslovakia), youngest son of Joseph Daneš (d.1883), landed proprietor, and his second wife Johana, née Foster. From the age of 10 he was educated at the Prague Gymnasium and in 1898 entered the Czech Charles University (Ph.D., 1902). He also studied at the Humboldt University of Berlin. A brilliant linguist, in Prague he was prominent in the Tuesday Society (later chairman) and in the History Club. He was a square-built young man, with 'a black-rimmed pince-nez insecurely perched on his finely modelled nose'; essential accessories were 'silk hat, Virginia cigar and cane'.

The possessor of 'a handsome fortune', Daneš travelled widely in south-eastern Europe and the United States of America. His writings on the geomorphological problems of karst (limestone topography) in Bosnia, Hercegovina and in Jamaica won him international repute. Back in Prague in 1907 he became lecturer in geography at the university and also taught at the Technical University of Prague and the Czech Commercial Academy.

In 1909-10, with botanist K. Domin, Daneš made a fifteen-months visit to Java and Australia. He reached Brisbane on 16 December 1909, and explored, often on horseback, almost inaccessible areas, notably round Cairns, the Chillagoe, the Barron River Gorge and the Barkly tableland. He became a corresponding member of the Royal Society of Queensland and the Queensland branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia, and published three papers in their journals in 1910. For literary exercise he translated Bulletin verses into Czech and German for publication in Vienna and Prague. From July he briefly visited Sydney, the Jenolan Caves, Melbourne and Adelaide. In Western Australia he went to Yallingup, the goldfields of Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie, and as far north as Leonora.

Daneš returned to Prague in October 1910 and in 1912 became assistant professor at his university. With Domin, he published in two volumes Dvojím Rájem (Through a Double Paradise) in 1911-12 and published articles on Australian karst in French, German and English as well as Czech in European journals. He remained in Prague until 1916 when he went to Sarajevo on active service. After the war he returned to the Charles University as professor.

At the end of 1919 Daneš was appointed consul-general for the new republic of Czechoslovakia in Sydney; he and his wife Božena, whom he had married in 1914, arrived in Sydney in August 1920. Successfully stimulating trade relations, in January 1921 he twice addressed meetings of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in Melbourne and later that year visited Tasmania and Papua-New Guinea. In his leisure he concentrated on human geography.

Daneš left Sydney in January 1923 and next year in Prague published his important Původ a Zanikáni Domorodců v Austrálii a Oceánii (Origin and Extinction of the Aboriginals in Australia and Oceania). He also wrote an article 'Pleistocene Changes of Sea-level and the Distribution of Man' in the Scottish Geographical Magazine and one for a Czech journal on the importance of the isolation of Australia. In 1926 his two volume Tri léta pri Tichém Océáně (Three Years by the Pacific Ocean) appeared.

Daneš was dean of the faculty of science in 1925-26. He was a member of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, and of many other learned bodies. In December 1927 he began an American lecture tour. On 11 April 1928 he was killed in a car accident at Culver City, Los Angeles, and was cremated; he was survived by his wife. That year the Daneš Foundation was set up by his friends in Prague to promote geographical research. In Australia his penetrating writings on both physical and human geography have largely been ignored by scholars.

Select Bibliography

  • J. N. Jennings and G. J. R. Linge, Of Time and Place (Canb, 1980)
  • Sborník Ceskoslovenské Spolecnosti Zemepisné, 34 (1928), and for publications
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Aug 1921, 1 Sep, 20 Dec 1922, 6 Jan 1923, 15 May 1928
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 7 Oct 1922
  • Bulletin 23 May 1928.

Citation details

Michael J. Cigler, 'Daneš, Jirí Václav (1880–1928)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 20 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


23 August, 1880
Nový Dvur, Bohemia, Czech Republic


11 April, 1928 (aged 47)
Los Angeles, California, United States of America

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