Vaclav Vitek (Vashek) was born in what was Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic. He obtained a degree in physics and mathematics at the Charles University in Prague and a PhD in condensed mater physics at the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in 1966. In 1967 he moved to the Department of Metallurgy at Oxford University as a postdoctoral fellow. At Oxford he was an ICI Research Fellow and a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson College. After the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 he decided to remain in the UK and was granted naturalisation in 1973. In 1975 he moved to the Central Electricity Research Laboratories as a research officer and in 1978 he was invited to a full professorship at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a chaired professor until his retirement in 2019. He is now Professor Emeritus.
Vitek's research has been principally devoted to understanding at a microscopic level plastic deformation and fracture of crystalline materials. In this context he introduced the concept of the g -surface, the energy surface obtained when displacing continuously two parts of a crystal cut along a crystal plane. This notion is now recognised as fundamental in all atomistic studies of dislocations, stacking faults and interfaces. Other aspects advanced by Vitek are the non-planarity of dislocation cores and the related effect of non-glide stresses on dislocation mobility, and the influence of local deformation at the tip of a brittle crack.
His major honours and awards include the Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award 1991 (Germany), Fellowship of the ASM and TMS (1999) (USA), Acta Metallurgica Gold Medal (1996), Membership of the United States National Academy of Engineering (2006), TMS Honorary Symposium on Crystal Defects, Computational Materials Science and Applications (2010), and a Festschrift in Progress in Materials Science (2011).
Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Pennsylvania