Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik

An independent international centre for advanced studies


Ivan Supek (1915-2007)

Croatian physicist, philosopher, writer, fighter for peace, and humanist academician Ivan Supek died after a long illness on 5 March in his home in Zagreb.

Ivan Supek was born on 8 April 1915 in Zagreb. After studies at the University of Zagreb he continued his studies of philosophy, physics, and mathemathics in Vienna. He obtained his doctoral degree in Zurich under the guidance of physicist Werner Heisenberg with whom he continued to work until 1943. Heisenberg also helped Ivan Supek to get liberated from the Gestapo prison.

As an antifascist in summer 1943, he joined the liberation army and on the liberated territory he worked mostly in the educational department of ZAVNOH. He participated in the Congress of cultural workers in Topusko in 1944, where he launched the first public appeal against the use of nuclear weapons.  

Ivan Supek lectured in theoretical physics at the University of Zagreb. He was one of founders of the Institute Ruder Boskovic from which he was banned because of his protest against the production of atomic bomb. 

In 1960 he founded the Institute for the Philosophy of Science and Humanism as part of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and in 1966 he initiated the publishing of the journal Encyclopedia Moderna.

 In 1969 Ivan Supek was elected Rector of the University of Zagreb and in 1970 he initiated the foundation of the Interuniversity Centre in Dubrovnik (IUC). After the failure of the Croatian Spring in 1972 he was excluded from Croatian public life for almost 18 years. 

Supek was also one of the founders of the international organization Pugwash and in 1976, along with Philip Noel Baker, Linus Pauling, and Roberto Peccei, he signed the Dubrovnik Philadelphia Declaration.

 From 1991 until 1997 Ivan Supek was President of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU).

 He is the author of 20 novels and 18 theatre pieces with historical, philosophical, political, and scientific-fictional topics.

Ivan Supek was one of the most important figures of the Croatian cultural, scientific and political history.

 Following his explicit wish, the notice of his death was made public after his funeral services within his closest family circle.



Academician Ivan Supek was one of those moral verticals rarely found in present times. The city of Dubrovnik is especially grateful to him for his vision and for project of the Inter-University Centre (IUC) which he envisaged as an international institution based on principles of openness, humanism and tolerance, and also for his idea of the creation of the university campus in the area of the old hospital in the vicinity of the IUC. 

Supek's plans for the  foundation of the IUC started in 1970 and continued in 1971 when as Rector of the University of Zagreb he planned to disperse university programmes throughout Croatia and envisaged Dubrovnik as the most appropriate seat for the IUC, where scholars and students from all parts of the world would meet and exchange ideas. The IUC was officially founded in the summer of 1972 and ever since, in times of peace, war and after, Ivan Supek was the centre's most engaged and longest-standing partner and friend. The network of Supek's friends all around the world, international institutions who had him as a distinguished member, numerous circles in which in particular his strong attachment to ideals of humanism and social justice were always mentioned with great respect, and also contributed greatly to the international reputation and wide support to the IUC. 

In the period of war Supek was the first to visit the IUC, its destroyed building, five days after the bombardment in December 1991, and immediately sent an appeal to the world stressing the importance of the continuation of IUC's work in Dubrovnik. In the following years as President of  the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Supek sent several appeals to the international community inviting them to support the IUC and its operation. 

In 1998 the city of Dubrovnik proclaimed Ivan Supek as honorary citizen of Dubrovnik. His last visit to the IUC was in the spring of 2002 when the IUC celebrated its 30th anniversary.  

For all who worked with and for the IUC it was a very special privilege to get to know and to become a friend of Ivan Supek, to cooperate with him and admire his immense enthusiasm, his courage, and in particular his great faith in the importance of, in particular, the IUC mission and its contribution to the building of a culture of peace. We shall all miss him, but we shall  follow his great example and keep his visions and ideals with us.