Milan Rastislav Štefánik Biography

(One of the Founding Fathers of Czechoslovakia)

Birthday: July 21, 1880 (Cancer)

Born In: Košariská, Slovakia

Milan Rastislav Stefanik was a Slovak philosopher, astronomer, diplomat, and politician. He made a big impact both in astronomy and politics during his short life. His passion for politics developed while he studied astronomy and philosophy in Prague. His political activism put him in touch with mentors such as Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and Vavro Šrobár. These men influenced Stefanik's strong desire to unite the Czech and Slovak people in one independent nation free from Austria-Hungarian rule. This passion inspired him to join the French military, where he spent four years as an aviator. He went on to spend the remainder of his life working towards the formation of Czechoslovakia. When he succeeded in this endeavor he was rewarded with the title of Czechoslovakia's first Minister of War. His work for the unification of the Czech and Slovak people was tarnished with the conspiracy that arose from his death in a plane crash. Although this crash was a turning point in the Slovak animosity and mistrust towards the Czechs, the significance of Stefanik's diplomatic achievements can never be forgotten. He will forever be known as one of the founding fathers of a Czechoslovakian republic that freed his people from imperial oppression

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Milan Rastislav Štefánik

Died At Age: 38


mother: Albertína Jurenková

Born Country: Slovak Republic

Aviators Astronomers

Died on: May 4, 1919

place of death: Ivanka pri Dunaji, Slovakia

Cause of Death: Plane Crash

More Facts

awards: Legion of Honour

Childhood & Early Life
Milan Rastislav Stefanik was born on July 21, 1880 in Kosariska, Austria-Hungary, which is a part of modern-day Slovakia. He was one of the 13 children born to his parents, Pavol and Albertina. Two of his siblings died at an early age.
His father Pavol was a Lutheran pastor in the local community. He was a strong Slovak patriot and raised his children as such.
Milan suffered in school for his beliefs. Hungarian schools were biased towards Slovaks, and national law prohibited the formation of all-Slovak schools. He had to switch schools several times throughout his youth. His first school was the Evangelical Lyceum in Bratislava, where he began his studies in 1890.
He studied at the lyceum in Bratislava for three years. In 1893 he switched to a school in Sopron. He completed his secondary studies at a school in Szarvas in 1898. In the same year he moved to Prague and began studies in construction engineering.
In 1900, he shifted to Charles University. Here he studied Astronomy, philosophy, mathematics, and physics. He also built relationships with some of the most prominent professors in these disciplines.
He completed his studies in 1904 when he graduated with a doctorate in Philosophy. He also acquired an extensive knowledge and passion for Astronomy.
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Milan Rastislav Stefanik's time studying in Prague had a profound effect on the shape of his career. He wrote political texts regarding the struggle of the Slovaks. His professor's influence developed in him the idea of Czechs and Slovaks living in peaceful cooperation.
He got his first job in Astronomy at the recommendation of one of his professors. The job was at the Observatoire de Paris-Meudon in Paris, France.
Stefanik excelled at his role despite having a rudimentary knowledge of French. Pierre Janssen, director of the observatory and co-founder of Astrophysics, recognized his potential and served as a mentor throughout his career.
The Observatoire de Paris-Meudon was the world's most prestigious Astronomical institute, which meant Janssen's endorsement carried heavy weight.
Stefanik climbed Mount Blanc for the first time in 1905. Here he set up a study of Mars and the moon. In the same year he was part of an expedition to Spain that studied the solar eclipse.
Stefanik served as the co-director of Mount Blanc observatories from 1906 to 1908. While serving as co-director at Mount Blanc, his mentor Pierre Janssen passed away in 1907. He left his job and became employed with the French government.
From 1908 until 1911 he worked as an academic-diplomatic hybrid sent to observe sun eclipses and strength diplomatic relations in countries all over the world. Some countries he worked in include: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Brazil, Tonga, Panama, Russia, and Tahiti.
While in Tahiti he built an Observatory. It is said that his secondary job was using the observatory to monitor German military activity.
At the start of World War 1 he enlisted in the French army with the firm belief that the defeat of Austria-Hungary would lead to independence for the Slovaks and Czechs. He enlisted for training as an aviator.
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He flew over 30 missions as a member of the MFS 99 squadron. He survived the war and returned to Paris in 1915.
In 1916, along with Tomáš Masaryk and Edvard Beneš, he formed the Czechoslovak National Council. This served as the body of government for the growing Czech-Slovak resistance that eventually led to the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
In 1916, he traveled to Russia to organize legions of troops. He continued his efforts the following year in the USA, France, and Italy. His diplomatic skills earned him the position of Czechoslovakia's first Minister of War.
Major Works
His most significant contribution was his work as a diplomat. Through the founding of the Czechoslovak National Council he played an integral role in the establishment of Czechoslovakia as an independent nation.
He also contributed to the young nation's foreign policy during his short time as Minister of War. Stefanik's duties included smoothly navigating activities regarding troops on foreign soil.
Awards & Achievements
In 1917, he was made grand officer of the French Legion of Honour.
Personal Life & Legacy
Milan Rastislav Stefanik suffered a tragic death on May 4, 1919 in a plane crash that also killed two Italian officers. The conspiracy surrounding the cause of the crash put a severe strain on relations between the Czechs and Slovaks.
In 1928 a monumental tomb in his honor was built on Bradlo, located in Brezová pod Bradlom.
The M.R. Stefanik airport in Bratislava is dedicated to his achievements as an aviator.
Stefanik was the recipient of the first documented medical evacuation using aircraft during a military mission
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