Vaclav Smil


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Vaclav Smil, born on 9 December 1943, is a Czech-Canadian scientist and policy analyst. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Environment at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. His interdisciplinary research interests encompass a broad area of energy, environmental, food, population, economic, historical, and public policy studies. He has also applied these approaches to the energy, food, and environmental affairs of China.

The smile was born during WWII in Plzeň, at that time, in the German Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia (present-day Czech Republic). His father was a police officer, and his mother was a bookkeeper. Growing up in a remote mountain town in the Plzeň Region, Smil cut wood daily to keep the home heated. This provided an early lesson in energy efficiency and density.

Smil completed his undergraduate studies and began his graduate work (culminating in the RNDr., an intermediate graduate degree similar to the Anglo-American Master of Philosophy credential, in 1965) at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University in Prague, where he took 35 classes a week, 10 months a year, for 5 years. "They taught me nature, from geology to clouds," Smil said. 

After graduation, he refused to join the Communist party, undermining his job prospects, though he found employment at a regional planning office. He married Eva, who was studying to be a physician. In 1969, following the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and also Eva's graduation, the Smiles emigrated to the United States, leaving the country months before a Soviet travel ban shut the borders. "That was not a minor sacrifice, you know?" Smile says. Smile then received his Ph.D. in geography from the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences of Pennsylvania State University in 1971.

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