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Famous Czechs and Americans with Czech Roots

Notable Americans with Czech Roots
Based on information provided and researched by Past SVU President Mila Rechcigl

(1937-), b. Prague, Czech. – The first woman to become the US Secretary of State and, until then, the highest-ranking woman in the history of the US government.

Madeleine K. Albright is Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm, and Chair of Albright Capital Management LLC, an investment advisory firm focused on emerging markets. She was the 64th Secretary of State of the United States. Dr. Albright received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Obama on May 29, 2012.

In 1997, Dr. Albright was named the first female Secretary of State and became, at that time, the highest ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. As Secretary of State, Dr. Albright reinforced America’s alliances, advocated for democracy and human rights, and promoted American trade, business, labor, and environmental standards abroad. From 1993 to 1997, Dr. Albright served as the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and was a member of the President’s Cabinet. From 1989 to 1992, she served as President of the Center for National Policy. Previously, she was a member of President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council and White House staff and served as Chief Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie. 

Dr. Albright is a Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service. She chairs both the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the Pew Global Attitudes Project and serves as president of the Truman Scholarship Foundation. She serves on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, a group tasked with providing the Secretary of Defense with independent, informed advice and opinion concerning matters of defense policy. Dr. Albright also serves on the Boards of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Aspen Institute and the Center for American Progress. In 2009, Dr. Albright was asked by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to Chair a Group of Experts focused on developing NATO’s New Strategic Concept.

Dr. Albright is the author of five New York Times bestsellers: her autobiography, Madam Secretary: A Memoir (2003); The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs (2006); Memo to the President: How We Can Restore America's Reputation and Leadership (2008); Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (2009); and Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 (2012).

Dr. Albright received a B.A. with Honors from Wellesley College, and Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Columbia University’s Department of Public Law and Government, as well as a Certificate from its Russian Institute.

(1745 – 1815), b. Cecil Co., MD; desc. f. Augustine Herman –An American lawyer and politician from Dover, in Kent County, Delaware. He was a veteran of the American Revolution, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and a member of the Federalist Party, who served in the Delaware General Assembly, as Governor of Delaware, and as U.S. Senator from Delaware. A signer of the US Constitution.

(1914-2008), b. Prague, Czech – “Shoemaker of the World”; ran the famous Bata Shoe Co. from 1940s until the ‘80s, with headquarters in eastern Ontario, Canada.

(1927 – 2010), b. Youngwood, PA, of Czech mother – An American collegiate and professional football quarterback and placekicker. Blanda has the distinction of having played 26 seasons of Professional Football, the most in the sport's history, and had scored more points than anyone in history at the time of his retirement. He was one of only three players to play in four different decades, and he holds the record for most extra points kicked

(1878 – 1967), b. Woodbury, KY, of Bohemian father – US  Navy admiral who served as Commander, Battle Force, U.S. Fleet from 1937–1938; and Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet from 1938-1940. He commanded the Fourteenth Naval District at Pearl Harbor at the time of the attack by the Japanese.

(1925-) , b. Flushing, NY, of Moravian ancestry; - As the wife of the 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush, she served as First Lady of the United States from 1989 to 1993. She is the mother of the 43rd President George W. Bush and of the 43rd Governor of Florida Jeb Bush.

(1856 – 1941), b. Louisville, KY, of Bohemian father - An Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He is considered as one of the greatest justices ever to sit on the Supreme Court. In his multiple roles as a reformer and jurist, he helped transform our ideas of free speech, right to privacy, pro bono legal work and the necessity of federal regulation in economic affairs.

(1947- ), b. Chicago, of Czech ancestry; his immigrant-settler grandfather was a native Czech -  An American  chemist who was awarded the 1989 Nobel prize in chemistry for the discovery of the catalytic properties of RNA.

(1873 – 1933), b. Chicago, IL, of Czech parents - An American politician, mostly known as the mayor of Chicago, Illinois, from 1931 until his assassination in 1933. The assassin's bullet was intended for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

(1934-), b. Chicago, IL, of Czech mother and Slovak father – A retired US Navy officer and a former NASA astronaut. He has been into space three times: as pilot of Gemini 9A in June 1966; as lunar module pilot of Apollo 10 in May 1969; and as commander of Apollo 17 in December 1972, the final Apollo lunar landing.

(1896 – 1984) and his wife Gerty Theresa Cori (1896 – 1957), b. Prague, Czech. -  Both trained as physicians, received a Nobel Prize in 1947 for their discovery of how glycogen (animal starch), a derivative of glucose , is broken down and resynthesized in the body, for use as a store and source of energy. In 2004 both were designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark in recognition of their work that elucidated carbohydrate metabolism.

(1912–1992), b. Prague, Czech. - A Czechoslovak and later American social and political scientist. His work focused on the study of war and peace, nationalism, co-operation and communication. He also introduced quantitative methods and formal system analysis and model-thinking into the field of political and social sciences, and is one of the most well known social scientists of the 20th century.

(1893-1975), b. Chomýž, Moravia - An authority on Byzantine history, Slavic history and civilization.

(1823 - 1908), b. Prague, Bohemia – A prominent New York architect best known for his work on the New York State Capitol. He was founding member of the American Institute of Architects, and the first American to define a modern organic architecture.

(1912 – 1994), b.  Napajedla, Moravia  - An eminent Czech American classical pianist and a member of the Juilliard faculty from 1965 to 1994. He is considered as one of the most significant pianists of the 20th century.

(1866- 1959), b. Louisville, KY, of Bohemian father - An American educator and reformer. His Flexner Report, published in 1910, reformed medical education in the United States. He was also instrumental in founding the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

(1863- 1946), b. Louisville, KY, of Bohemian father – A physician, scientist, administrator, and professor of experimental pathology at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the first director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation.

( 1932-), b. Čáslav, Czech. – A Czech-American film director, screenwriter, and educator. Two of his films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, are among the most celebrated in the history of film, both gaining him an Academy Award for Best Director. He was also nominated for a Best Director Oscar for The People vs. Larry Flynt. He has also won Golden Globe, Cannes, Berlinale, BAFTA, Cesar, David di Donatello, European Film Academy, and Czech Lion awards.

(1879 – 1972), b. Prague, Czech. – A composer of operettas, musicals, songs and piano pieces, and also a pianist. His best-known works are Rose-Marie and The Vagabond King, each of which enjoyed success on Broadway and in London and were adapted for film.

b. Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia - A mining expert and renowned for being the first recorded Bohemian and Jew in North America. He was a member of the first English colonization effort in America (Roanoke, 1585).

(1895 – 1983), b. Chicago, IL, of Czech parents - Nicknamed "Papa Bear," was a player, coach, owner and pioneer in professional American football. He was the iconic longtime leader of the NFL's Chicago Bears. Halas revolutionized American football strategy in the late 1930s when he revived the T formation.

(1940-), b. Martins Ferry, OH, of Czech father – A retired American professional basketball player who competed for 16 seasons with the Boston Celtics, winning eight NBA titles, half of them coming in his first four seasons.  He was considered the most well-rounded player in the history of professional basketball.

(1621-1686), b. Prague, Kingdom of Bohemia – The first historically documented immigrant from the Czech Lands. He is noted for preparing the first accurate map of Virginia and Maryland.  He was known as the First Lord of Bohemia Manor.

(1894 – 1969), b. Louny, Czech.-  A noted Czech-American mathematician, who wrote on the theory of relativity; he solved some very difficult equations relating to Einstein's Unified Field Theory. Einstein himself was reported to have said that if anyone could solve the equations it would be Professor Hlavatý, which proved to be the case.

(1869– 1943), b. Humpolec, Bohemia - A noted Czech-American anthropologist, who is considered the founder of American physical anthropology. He was the first curator of physical anthropology of the U.S. National Museum.

(1921-), b. Prague, Czech. - He is a classical composer and conductor, winner of the 1969 Pulitzer Prize and 1993 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition.

(1830 – 1904), b. Prague, Bohemia - A19th century famed American character actress. She became famous acting in great Shakespearean parts and other famous parts. She was particularly noted for playing Meg Merrilies.

(1905 – 1950), b. Oklahoma Territory, of Czech ancestry; his immigrant settler grandfather was a native Czech  - An American physicist and radio engineer who in August 1931 first discovered radio waves emanating from the Milky Way. He is considered the founder of radio astronomy.

(orig. Marie Jedličková) (1887 – 1982) , b. Brno, Moravia – A famed Metropolitan Opera singer, known for her role as Sieglinda, Elisabeth, Santuzza, Fedora, Rosalinda, Carmen, Salome, Octavius, Tosca and Turandot.

(1881 – 1973), b. Prague, Bohemia – A jurist and legal philosopher, educator and  writer on international law, who formulated a kind of positivism known as the “pure theory” of law. He has been regarded as one of the most important legal scholars of the 20th century.

(1885 –1945), b. New York, NY, of Bohemian ancestry; his maternal grandfather, Seligman Kakeles was born near Prague, Bohemia – One of  the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works.

US Senator ( 1943-) , b. Aurora, CO, of  Czech ancestry; his paternal grandfather Fritz Kohn was a native of Horní Benešov, Moravia -  The senior US Senator from Massachusetts, the tenth most senior United States Senator and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2004 presidential election, but lost to then President George W. Bush.

(1857-1944), b. Sušice , Bohemia - A Bohemian ophthalmologist who is credited for the discovery of cocaine as a local anesthetic during eye surgery which revolutionized medicine.

(1985-) , b. Chicago, IL, of Czech ancestry; his great-grandfather František Lysáček, emigrated from Czechoslovakia to Chicago in 1925 - An American figure skater. He is the 2010 Olympic champion, the 2009 World champion, the 2005 & 2007 Four Continents champion, the 2007 & 2008 U.S. national champion, and the 2009/2010 Grand Prix Final champion.

(1897 – 1957), b. Brno, Czech. – A Moravian film and romantic music composer. Korngold won the Academy Award for his score to The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938, widely considered one of the greatest scores ever written. His score to Anthony Adverse (1936) also won the Oscar.

(1902 – 1984), b. Chicago, IL, of Czech father - An American businessman. He joined McDonald's in 1954 and built it into the most successful fast food operation in the world. He owned the San Diego Padres baseball team from 1974 until his death in 1984. He is considered the founder of the fast food industry.

(1901 –1976), b. Vienna, of Moravian mother – One of the major figures in 20th-century American sociology. He is considered the founder of modern empirical sociology.

(1850 – 1935), b. Brno, Moravia – A noted American civil engineer who specialized in the design and construction of bridges. Among others, he designed the gracious Hell Gate Bridge in New York City, the largest steel arch structure in the world in 1917.

(1926 – 2011), b. Prague, Czech. - A renowned Czech Jewish author of novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays whose works have often involved the Holocaust.

(1920-), b. Donora, PA, of Czech mother – A retired professional baseball player of international fame who played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals.

(1956-), b. Prague, Czech. – A retired Czech American tennis champion and coach. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 major women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 major mixed doubles titles. She reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, including nine consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the women's singles title at Wimbledon a record nine times.

C.Ss.R. (1811 – 1860), b. Prachatice, Bohemia - A Redemptorist Catholic priest in the United States who became the fourth Bishop of Philadelphia (1852–60). He is the first American bishop (and thus far the only male citizen) to be canonized. While Bishop of Philadelphia, Neumann founded the first Catholic diocesan school system in the US.

(1696‑1772), b. Suchdol, Moravia – The first Bishop of the Renewed Unitas fratrum, known as Moravian Church. He was consecrated Bishop by Daniel Ernst Jablonski, a grandson of John Amos Comenius, the last Bishop of the ancient Unitas fratrum, thus symbolizing the linkage with the Bohemian Brethren.

(1933-2012), b. Chicago, IL, of Czech ancestry - One of Hollywood’s top box office movie stars, whose pictures appeared on the cover of Time magazine. She was best known for her performance in the 1958 film Vertigo.

(1907 – 1994), b. Prague, Czech.) – A celebrated Czech soprano and actress and, from 1940 to 1956, a star of the Metropolitan Opera.

(1626-), b. Holland, of Bohemian aristocratic family, as confirmed by the testimony of the Supreme Court Justice John Jay, who was related to him. – A pioneer settler and merchant in New Amsterdam (New York City), who became the wealthiest person of the Dutch colony.

(1879 - 1965), b. Frenštát, Moravia - A Czech-American sculptor and educator. He created more than four hundred works during his career, two hundred of which are now displayed in the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park, Florida.

(1753 – 1813), b. Williamsburg, VA, desc. f. Augustine Herman - An American attorney, the seventh Governor of Virginia, the second Secretary of State, and the first US Attorney General.

(1930-), b. Mladá Boleslav, Czech. – A biochemist, nutritionist and cancer researcher, who pioneered early studies on enzyme synthesis and degradation. He is also an authority on Czech immigrant history and was one of the founders and long-time President of the Czechoslovak Society of Arts and Sciences (SVU).

(1894 - 1960), b. Cedar Rapids, IA, of Czech father - An American educator, statistician, economist, philanthropist, planner, and businessman. He is credited for devising a plan to collect taxes at their source by means of a payroll deduction system, on a pay as you go basis.

(1883–1978), b. Kouřím, Bohemia - An eminent American wood engraver, etcher, illustrator, typeface designer, and book designer. Ruzicka designed typefaces and wood engraving illustrations for Daniel Berkeley Updike's Merrymount Press, and was a designer for, and consultant to, the Mergenthaler Linotype Company for fifty years. He also designed a number of seals and medals, including John F. Kennedy Medal.

(1866 - 1952), b. Záboří, Bohemia – An American politician, who served as member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Chicago, Illinois, from 1907 until his death. As a leading Democrat he chaired the powerful Rules Committee after 1937. He was the Dean (longest-serving member) of the House and he served as Dean for almost 19 years, the longest time any person has served as Dean in the history of the Republic.

(1874 – 1951), b. Vienna, of Bohemian mother – A great American composer and painter, associated with the expressionist movement. He developed a new method of musical organization in 12 different tones.

(1883 –1950), b. Třešť, Moravia - An American economist, sociologist and political scientist, known for his theories of capitalist development and business cycles. He popularized the term "creative destruction" in economics. He is considered one of the most important economists of the twentieth century.

(1793 - 1864), b. Popice, Moravia - A pseudonym of American journalist Karl Anton Postl , an advocate for a democracy and author of Romantic novels with American backgrounds and travelogues. He was considered by some the greatest American author at his time.

(1950-), b. Brno, Czech. – An award-winning children's book writer and illustrator. His illustrations have also appeared in Time, Newsweek, Esquire, and The Atlantic Monthly.

(1903 – 1991), b. Cheb, Czech. – An eminent American pianist. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest Beethoven interpreters of the twentieth century.

(1924 – 2012), b. Náchod, Czech. - A noted Czech writer and publisher who spent much of his life in Canada. Škvorecký was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1980. He and his wife were long-time supporters of Czech dissident writers before the fall of communism in that country.

(1949-) , b. Quitman, TX, of Czech ancestry; her grandfather was a native of Moravia - An Academy Award winning American actress and singer. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as country star Loretta Lynn in the 1980 film Coal Miner's Daughter. She also received Oscar nominations for her roles in Missing, The River, Crimes of the Heart and In the Bedroom.

(1847 – 1921), b. St. Louis, MO, of Bohemian parents - A decorated Rear Admiral in the United States Navy. He is best remembered for being the officer to claim Wake Island after the Spanish-American War, as well as accepting the physical relinquishment of Guam by its indigenous governor following the Treaty of Paris in which Spain ceded Guam to the US following nearly 300 years of colonial rule.

(1859 – 1940), b. St. Louis, MO, of Bohemian father - A US economist and educator, serving as a professor of economics at Harvard University for almost 50 years. He is credited with creating the foundations of modern trade theory. He also contributed a good deal to the understanding of tariffs.

(1898 – 1986) was an American cardiologist, working in Baltimore and Boston, who founded the field of pediatric cardiology. Notably, she is credited with developing the concept for a procedure that would extend the lives of children born with Tetrology of Fallot (also known as blue baby syndrome).

(1931-), b. Prague, Czech. - A Czech former figure skater who represented Czechoslovakia in competition. Vrzáňová is the 1949 & 1950 World champion and 1950 European champion. Following her competitive career, Vrzáňová moved to the United States and performed for the traveling show Ice Follies for three years under the name "Aja Zanova" and then joined the Ice Capades. She was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 2009.

(1917 – 2006), b. San Francisco, CA, of Czech ancestry; his paternal grandfather Nathan was a native of Bohemia - An American politician and businessman. He served in a variety of prominent state and federal positions for three decades, most prominently as Secretary of Defense under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1987.

(1903 -1995), b. Vienna, of Czech father – A Czech-American comparative literary critic. He is considered the founder of American literary criticism and comparative literature.

(1890-1945), b. Prague, Bohemia - A famous novelist, playwright, and poet, known especially for his novel, Song of Bernadette

(1880 –1943), b. Prague, Bohemia – A psychologist who is considered the founder of Gestalt psychology.

(1819- 1900), b. Lomnička, Bohemia – An American Reform rabbi, editor, and author. He was the leading organizational genius behind the rise of American Reform Judaism in the late 19th century. He played a central role in the founding of three major Reform Jewish institutions that still exist today: The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Hebrew Union College and the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

(orig. Jurka) (1887 – 1974), b. St. Paul, MN, of Czech immigrant father - An American theatre and film actress until the late 1960s. In addition to her many stage roles, including Queen Gertrude opposite John Barrymore's Hamlet; she was also a director and playwright.

(1721 – 1808), b. Suchdol, Moravia - A Moravian clergyman and missionary among the Native Americans in the Thirteen Colonies. He established communities of Munsee (Lenape) converts in the valley of the Muskingum River in Ohio; and for a time, near modern-day Amherstburg, Ontario.