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1912: The People’s Observatory is opened

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Baron Artur Kraus, přefocená legitimace

Baron Artur Kraus (1854–1930) came from a wealthy and respected Jewish family in Pardubice. His father Josef Kraus (1810–1892) was the richest man in the city. Artur’s uncle Alfred Kraus (1824–1909) was a high-ranking official at Emperor Franz Joseph’s military administration, and from 1882 to 1889 he was the Governor of the province of Bohemia. Artur Kraus never married. He focused on business, and he spent his inheritance on his pastimes – as well as donating money to charitable causes.

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In the 1890s Baron Artur Kraus became involved in the Pardubice cycling club, of which he was also the chairman. In 1892 he built a tennis court in the garden of his home, and four years later he translated the rules of tennis from English and published them. In 1895 he ordered a pair of skis from Norway. He practised cross-country skiing in the grounds of his Pardubice mansion, and later at Kunětická Hora.
Kraus was an enthusiast for everything that was new. He owned the first motorcycle in Bohemia, a Hildebrand & Wolfmüller model that he bought in 1895. He also owned the first typewriter in Pardubice.
It was during the first half of the 1890s that Kraus made his first attempt at flight. He built an airplane with flapping wings, naming it an “ornithopter”. However, like those who went before him and those who followed him, his efforts with the ornithopter were not successful. In 1910 Baron Kraus was the manager of Jan Kašpar’s first public flight in Pardubice, and he also took part in Kašpar’s later flights, as well as being involved in Pardubice’s airfield.

Vojenský letoun Lohner B, osoby zprava: první neznámá, Eugen Čihák, baron Artur Kraus, snad Holekův mechanik desátník Čapek, Rudolf Holeka, Josef Prokop (?), Jan Kašpar, 1913

Ornitoptéra barona Artura Krause, 1890

Artur Kraus appears to have been fascinated by astronomy from an early age, and he also studied astronomy. In 1895 he rented the upper floor of the tower at Pardubice Castle, where he set up an observatory. In 1912 he opened the People’s Observatory in his home; this was the first public observatory in Bohemia. Entry was free of charge, and Kraus gave explanations to anybody with an interest in astronomy. He systematically observed the sun, and he also recorded other astronomical phenomena.

Hudební kapela barona Artura Krause

Kraus and several friends established a band, which played what they described as “gypsy music”. They performed for their friends, and also to raise money for charity – though they never played at Pardubice’s theatre. It is said that Baron Kraus had made a generous donation to fund the construction of the theatre, but he was not invited to the opening ceremony (whether deliberately or by mistake), and he decided never to set foot inside the building.