Friederike Victoria “Joy” Adamson

20 January 1910, Opava – 3 January 1980, Shaba (Kenya) 
Joy Adamson was a protector of the African flora and fauna, naturalist, painter, and writer.

Adamson was the second of three daughters and a granddaughter of a well-known Opava businessman Carl Weisshuhn. When Adamson’s parents divorced, her father stayed in Opava with the youngest daughter Dorota, whilst her mother moved with Friederike and her oldest daughter Traute to Vienna. Adamson studied music and piano play. She did not wish to teach, though. She carried on studying sculpting and medicine, yet she never earned a university degree.

Adamson married three times in the span of ten years. Her first husband was Viktor von Klarvill (1935), then she married a Swiss botanist Peter Bally (1938), and finally the founder of national parks in Africa and a wildlife warden George Adamson (1944). All three marriages remained childless. Friederike‘s second husband had troubles pronouncing her name, and so he started calling her Joy.

Following an agreement with her first husband, Adamson sailed to Africa in 1937 to study the African flora under Petr Bally, who worked in the Nairobi Museum. She sketched and drew mainly flowers, but took interest also in animals and African natives. Adamson left behind 4,000 drawings, many of which are displayed in the National Museum of Kenya or were used to illustrate many books.

Joy Adamson is best known for her conservation efforts and releasing animals born in captivity into the wild, which she managed to do with lions and leopards. Her greatest success was bringing up and releasing back into the wild a lioness cub Elsa. Adamson described her experience in a book called “A Lioness of Two Worlds” published in New York in 1960. The book was translated into 33 languages and it was also adapted for cinema and TV. Another book about Penny the leopard was finished posthumously by Adamson’s assistant Pieter Mason after Adamson had been killed in a robbery in Shaba National Reserve in Kenya.


Gregor Johann Mendel

20 July 1822, Hynčice near Odry – 6 January 1884, Brno 
Gregor Johann Mendel was a naturalist, founder of genetics, and a graduate from the Opava grammar school.

Mendel was born as the second of five children. He grew up in a farmstead that included 30 fathoms of fields, a meadow, and a large garden with an orchard. Growing up in the country gave little Johann the opportunity to watch and study nature. After completing his education at a primary school in 1830, he left home to study at a renowned grammar school with its own museum of natural sciences in Opava. He then went on to study theology at his mother’s request as it allowed him to obtain education free of charge. He was given the name Gregor (Řehoř)  when he joined the Augustinian monks. His interest in natural sciences led him to Vienna where he studied at university. After he had failed his exams, he moved to Brno where he joined the Church and eventually became the abbot of St. Thomas’s Abbey.

In the years 1856–1865 he carried out 10,000 experiments on plant hybridization. He mostly experimented with common edible peas. Mendel became a member the Natural History Society of Brno and he published his research in the society’s magazine. He formulated three laws of genetics that determine the main principles of the transfer of hereditary traits from parents to offspring. His rules of heredity have become the foundations of the modern study of inheritance. Mendel’s discoveries were not favourably received by the scientific community at the time. His work was rediscovered 16 years after his death when his claims were examined and confirmed by E. Tschermak, C. Correns, and H. de Vries.