Exactly two hundred years have passed since the birth of the priest, geographer and cartographer Blaž Kocen (Blasius Kozenn) on 24 January 1821 in Hotunje near Celje. He was considered one of the most important geographers and cartographers in the Habsburg Monarchy.
The originator of Slovene geography
He was involved in geography teaching and designed a series of textbooks that were considered the best in what was then Austria. He is also considered the pioneer of modern geography and cartography in Slovenia. Unfortunately, today his name is little known outside of professional circles in our country. But his atlases for primary, secondary and vocational schools achieved huge circulations and high accolades in professional circles. They have experienced as many as 43 editions in German and a large number of reprints in Czech, Polish, Croatian, Italian, etc. Blaž Kocen also introduced Slovene place names and added maps of Slovene lands to Austro-Hungarian official atlases. Thus, on the map of the Alpine lands from 1863, the Slovene ethnic border was drawn and a list of Slovene place names was added, and a slightly younger atlas also has a map of Slovene lands.
Priest and teacher in Ljubljana, Gorizia and Olomouc
Blaž Kocen was educated in Celje, Graz and Klagenfurt, where he also completed theology and was ordained a priest in 1845. He continued to work as a chaplain in Styria, but soon entered the teaching profession. From the autumn of 1852 he studied natural sciences in Vienna, and the following year he passed the appropriate examinations. From 1854 he taught at the grammar school in Ljubljana, and as early as 1855 he came to Gorizia, due to respiratory problems, to a city with a favorable climate, where he taught at the state (German) grammar school. He lived in Travnik and also continued his scientific work, focusing on the study of the climatic characteristics of the Goriška region. In 1857 his scientific study “Das Klima von Görz” was published. In his work, he positively assessed the mild winter and the long growing season in the Goriška region, while the negative assessment of the frequent bora. As a curiosity, Kocen's first textbook was published in Gorizia by the Hartleben publishing house in 1858 and comprises 86 pages. In the summer of 1858 he became a professor at the German grammar school in Olomouc, Moravia.
A loner, a freethinker, a Slovene
Eventually he devoted himself entirely to cartography, moving to Vienna in 1870 for better opportunities for action. His contemporaries describe him as a freak, he lived quite a solitary life, as a professor he acted sullen and strict, but honest, he stood out with his free-thinking. In his younger years he was not in favor of the Slovene national movement, he did not use Slovene during his schooling. However, during his activities in Moravia, he took up the Chekhov's commitment to national rights and became a misguided Slovene.
Blaž Kocen died on May 29, 1871 in the Viennese suburb of Hernals, presumably from typhus. Unfortunately, he is one of those scientists who have achieved unequivocal international success in their field, but they are not well known in the Slovenian public.