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The Hungarian Genius

Matches. The phonograph. Non-Euclidian geometry. Television. The computer. The atomic bomb. Vitamin C. The helicopter. All are hallmarks of our modern existence and seemingly unrelated - except that all were invented, or brought to light, by Hungarians.

Time and again, the world has seen Hungarian achievements in medicine, technology, mathematics, sports and other fields far in excess of what would be "normal" for a country of its small size. In 1963, an article in the prestigious monthly, Science, which dealt with the enriching contribution of immigrants to the natural sciences, commented: "The role of the Hungarians is proverbial."

Between 1905 and 1971, eight Hungarians won more than their share of Nobel prizes, and there would have been at least two more were there a Nobel Prize for mathematics.

In that pinnacle of athletic contests, the Olympic Games, Hungary has been consistently near the top in ranking, out-performing many nations with far greater populations - sometimes placing in the top three, and almost always in the first six - during the past fifty years. In the most challenging of mental contests - chess competition - Hungary's performance is no less astounding. Her recent victories include capturing first place in the 23rd Chess Olympiad held in Buenos Aires in 1978 and, in 1980, finishing second after a tie-break with Russia in Malta, the scene of the 24th Olympiad.

It is only fitting that a book about the "Spirit of Hungary" mention at least some of its extraordinary ambassadors of knowledge and talent whose impact has been felt, not only in Hungary, but around the world.

Entering into the storehouse of Hungarian genius, one feels like Ali Baba of storybook fame who, entering a cave of hidden treasures, was so dazzled at the array of brilliant jewels that no sooner did he pick up one ruby than he dropped it to grab up an even more beautiful diamond, and another, and another.

Let the first mention here be devoted to a man whose work has saved the lives of millions since the mid-19th century. Dr. Ignatius Semmelweis (1818-1865). Countless mothers owe their very lives to this great physician who discovered the cause of childbed fever (puerperal fever) and practically eliminated its danger by prescribing the absolute sterilization of all instruments and the cleanliness of all persons coming in contact with the mother. Maternal mortality dropped eighty per cent after his discovery, earning for Semmelweis the title, "The Mothers' Savior."

Recently, a best selling biographical novel about Semmelweis titled The Cry and the Covenant included the following tributes, noted on its last page:

"It is the doctrine of Semmelweis which lies at the foundation of all our practical work of today... The great revolution of modern times in Obstetrics as well as in Surgery is the result of the one idea that, complete and clear, first arose in the mind of Semmelweis, and was embodied in the practice of which he was the pioneer." (Sir William Joppe Sinclair, Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, University of Manchester, England).

"Without Semmelweis my achievements would be nothing. To this great son of Hungary, Surgery owes most." (Joseph, Lord Lister, Professor of Surgery, Kings College, London).

Had the Nobel Prize existed in Semmelweis' time, no doubt he would have been one of its recipients.

Other Hungarian names in medicine include Professor Mihály Somogyi, who developed the "Somogyi test" for the diagnosis of diabetes, and Dr. Béle Schick, who introduced the "Schick test" for determining susceptibility to diphtheria.


In sciences closely related to medicine, Professor György Hevesy won a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1943 for discovering new ways to use isotope tracers and Rihárd Zsigmondy received the Prize in 1925 for his pioneering work in colloid chemistry.

The very first Hungarian Nobel Prize winner was the physicist Lenárd Fülöp, who was awarded the Prize for his pioneering research in cathode rays.

Professor Eugene P Wigner won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 for his research in neutron absorption, while in 1971, another Hungarian, Professor Gábor Dénes received his Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention and development of holography, a system of lenseless three-dimensional photography which can be applied to computer technology, topographic mapmaking and medicine.

The next group of men are from an earlier era, representing Hungarian excellence in science and mathematics. The first two were father and son: Farkas and János Bólyai. Both lived in Marosvásárhely, the capital city of the Székelyek (a Magyar ethnic branch) in Transylvania.

The Bólyais were both famous mathematicians. In 1832, Bólyai the elder published his Tentamen. which may be regarded as the forerunner of modern mathematical and geometrical criticism.

The epoch-making discovery of his son, János Bólyai (1802-1860), hyperbolic (non-Euclidean) geometry, laid the foundations of modern geometry and solved a 2000-year-old problem in mathematics. He succeeded in refuting the famous axiom of the parallels. Bólyai's Absolute Geometry was, according to Coolidge, a milestone in human thought. As the Encyclopaedia Britannica states: "The creation of non-Euclidean geometry has been compared with the Copernican revolution in astronomy...

The third man in this group, Ányos Jedlik (1800-1895) was a Benedictine monk, a professor of physics and mechanics at the University of Budapest. Electrotechnical science was still in its infancy when Jedlik invented the first electromotor in 1827. In that early age Jedlik demonstrated that an improved version of his motor would be suitable for driving vehicles, and even designed a model for an electric motorcoach. Later experiments led him to develop the first unipolar machine and to the construction of the dynamo-electric motor. Later still he invented an electrostatic machine, which was an early form of the impulse generators now applied in nuclear research. For this he was awarded the Medal of Progress. His dynamo antedated the Siemens generator by eighteen years.

Of this group it was Baron Loránd Eötvös who achieved the most renown. Scientific literature and usage bears ample evidence of his inventions: the Eötvös Law of capillarity; the Eötvös unit of gravitation (roughly one-billionth of a gram); the Eötvös gravitational torsion balance of almost incredible sensitivity; the Eötvös effect: and inventions of instruments for measuring terrestrial magnetism for decades to come. The torsion balance made it possible to explore for natural resources like oil, coal, and different ores. Eötvös also recognized the correlation between surface tension and molecular weights of liquids measured at various temperatures. This led to the Law of Eötvös which was declared by Einstein to be one of the pillars of his theory of relativity and was applied in his "theory of equivalence."

The fifth man in the group, Otto Blathy (1869-1939) is not as well known as his invention, the transformer, which he developed in cooperation with two others. Blathy's other inventions include the induction meter, the tension regulator, the Watt meter, the alternating current motor, and the turbogenerator. Blathy's achievements were recognized at the Paris International Exhibition of 1900 where he was awarded the Grand Prix.

Present day science and technology owes much to another group of Hungarians, a "big six" comprised of János von Neuman, Leó Szilárd, Ede Teller, Eugene Wigner, Tódor Kármán and Zoltán Bay.

János von Neuman (1903-1957), considered to be the greatest mathematician of this century next to Einstein, had a varied career which involved him in several extremely important projects and earned acknowledgement as "one of the great thinkers of the age."

A graduate of the famous Lutheran High School in Budapest, he obtained his Ph.D. in the same city. Neuman eventually settled in the United States, where he did much work in the theory of sets, quantum mechanics and fluid mechanics. Early in his career, von Neuman wrote a highly technical paper on the theory of games, which systematized the chances in games, using terms well-known in mathematics and which can be applied to such subjects as economics, political science and military strategy. In 1945, he was appointed director of the Electronics Computer Project at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, thus decisively influencing the development of electronic computers. In fact, he is considered the "father of the computer." His work also influenced the design of missiles, and during World War II he took part in the development of the atomic bomb. Von Neuman was presented with the Fermi Award and appointed a member of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, the highest position ever achieved by a Hungarian in the United States.


Von Neuman was not the only Hungarian involved in the development of the atomic bomb. Leó Szilárd, Eugene Wigner and Ede Teller were even more vitally involved in the process. Leó Szilárd was the first to consider the application of the atom to making bombs. Eugene Wigner was later to win the Nobel Prize in physics, as mentioned earlier. Ede Teller, the youngest of the group, worked closely with Enrico Fermi and helped persuade Albert Einstein to write his historic letter in 1939 to President F.D. Roosevelt, suggesting the formation of the Manhattan Project for producing atomic bombs. Szilárd, Teller and Wigner constituted half of the six-member group that directed the Project - making them the foremost architects of the atomic age. It is said that when the other three members of the group were absent, the deliberations within the group were conducted in Hungarian!

After America dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Teller, Wigner and Szilárd recognized that the atom's destructive powers must be leashed. Szilárd saw, and campaigned for, the need to control the spread of nuclear arms, deeply aware of his responsibility for having let loose a "spirit" that might get out of control. For his efforts he was given the Atoms for Peace Award in 1959.

Professor Eugene P. Wigner, like János von Neuman, attended the Lutheran High School in Budapest. He started his career as a chemical engineer, but very soon his interest turned to theoretical physics, which he taught first in Berlin, then in Princeton. In 1936, he evolved the theory of neutron absorption which was utilized in constructing nuclear reactors, after which he developed his law of parity conservation.

Professor Ede Teller emigrated to the United States in 1935 after studying at Budapest, Karlsruhe, Munich and Leipzig. Dubbed the "Father of the Hydrogen Bomb," he has remained active since his involvement with the atomic bomb. In 1958, he was appointed director of the U.S. Second Weapons Laboratory at Livermore, Ca. In I 962, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission honored him with the Enrico Fermi Award. As this book is being written he continues to serve on high level governmental panels as a scientific advisor.

Professor Tódor Kármán (1881 - 1963) was the fifth Hungarian who decisively influenced American - and world - technology during and after World War II. Kármán, a graduate of Budapest Technical University, achieved world fame as a scientist of aerodynamics with his contribution to heat and quantum theory. He was invited first to Germany and finally to the United States where he became director of the Guggenheim Aeronautics Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. He had a leading role in the development of the B-36, B-47 and B-52 bombers, as well as the Atlas, Titan and Minuteman rockets. Kármán made unique contributions to the theory of elasticity, produced important findings on the strength of materials, aircraft structures, aerodynamics and thermodynamics. For his pioneering role in aviation science, Kármán is often remembered as "the father of supersonic flight."

The sixth man in this group is a "latecomer," Professor Zoltán Bay, who has been working on a "higher level" than the others: Professor Bay's specialties are the stars and the moon. As director of a Hungarian Research Laboratory in Budapest in 1946, he developed special methods - simultaneously with American efforts - to scan the surface of the moon and other heavenly bodies with radar. Thus, he was one of the founders of a new branch of science radar-astronomy. After moving to the United States in the 1960's he developed, while working with laser beams, a system for the exact measurement of optical vibrations through which he greatly facilitated NASA's work in measuring the speed of light, distance and time in space. Professor Bay is presently working for the government in the Washington D.C. area.

In addition to well-known Hungarian "stars" of contemporary science there are a number of "lesser lights" among Hungarian scientists whose work shone in earlier times, but whose fruits are still enjoyed today.

For example, consider the invention of instant fire, the match.

János Irinyi (1817-1895) produced this instrument of instant fire as a student in 1840 when one morning he dipped little sticks into a chemical mixture and put them on the window sill to dry. Striking them against the wall in the evening, he discovered he had created what was to be called the match. Irinyi was so poor that he could not further develop his invention, he sold it to his Swedish colleague. That is why the world calls the match a Swedish invention.

The Telephone

The telephone, as we all know, was invented by Bell and Edison, but it was due to the Hungarian engineer, Tivadar Puskás (1844-1893) that this brilliant device became the common treasure of modern humanity. For, when acting as Edison's assistant, Puskás suggested that subscribers be connected by means of exchanges. The first telephone exchange was established in Paris. The Budapest exchange opened on May 1st, 1881. It was in this city that another of Puskás' inventions, "the speaking newspaper" (Telefonhírmondó), was first put into practice on February I5, 1893, sending news and music to subscribers as a forerunner of modern telecommunications.



Mihály Dénes (1894-1953) is listed among the world's leading scientists in the field of electronic image transmission. His basic system is used in most European countries. The first television program in history was shown on March 8, 1929 at the Berlin-Witzleben radio station,. using the Dénes system.

Electric trains

The world owes the possibility of propelling full-sized railway trains by high power alternating electric current to Kálmán Kandó (1869-1931), whose researches in the split-phase system have permitted large-scale electric railways to use normal public utility current for powering their locomotives. The electric trains developed by Kandó are in use on the Hungarian, Italian, Austrian and French railways. Kandó locomotives are also found in Argentina, in Egypt and in other parts of the world.

The Helicopter

It was the Hungarian Oszkár Asbóth (1881 - 1960), a student of Tódor Kármán, who invented the first helicopter, which was flown above Budapest as early as 1928. The first foreigner who was given the opportunity to test Asbóth's helicopter was Captain Liptrot of the British Air Force on September 27, 1930.

The Jet...

The world's first patent for the propulsion of an airplane by jet engine was given to Dr. Alber Fonó (1881 - 1960) who, as a mechanical engineer,. carried out extensive research on converting heat energy into mechanical energy.

Speaking of jets, the first scientist to use the reactive force was the Hungarian János András Segner (1704-1777), who constructed the first water-jet, the Segner-Wheel. When we turn on our sprinklers in the garden, we should remember Segner, who also produced. among other things, the first proof of Descartes' theory of signs. Historians of science remember him as the father of the water turbine.

Remaining in the eighteenth century, we can look at the lighter side of inventions by considering the most amazing Hungarian inventor of all, Farkas Kempelen (1754-I 804). Kempelen was the first to note and record the minute movements in the formation of sounds, and on the basis of his observations he constructed a "speaking machine," a forerunner of the modern phonograph. This apparatus is kept in the Museum of King's College in London.

The genial Kempelen worked in almost every branch of technical science. He organized the textile industry in the South of Hungary, and built the Pozsony bridge of pontoons in the North, Kempelen was the first to experiment with the use of printed letters for teaching the blind in Paris. Kempelen amazed the world with his "chess-playing machine," with which he traveled throughout Europe, astonishing even Napoleon. The Emperor is said to have lost his game with the machine, upon which he swept the figures off the board in frustration. The secret of this machine was never revealed.

The name Napoleon conjures up the image of war, an area in which the Magyars have also made their mark. As early as the time of their Conquest, the Magyars surprised their enemies with their magnificent horsemanship. Their main secret was, perhaps, the use of the stirrup, which they invented. Hungarian horsemen also attached to their saddles a bag filled with meatpowder and farfel (tarhonya), an innovation that allowed the Magyar warriors to cover long distances rapidly without having to take time for provisioning.

The English word "coach" derives from the Hungarian kocsi, meaning "from Kócs." The first coach was, in fact, constructed by the blacksmith of the village of Kócs at the beginning of the 15th century. The Germans called it "Kutsche," in English it became "coach," in French, "coche."

More famous than the Hungarian kocsi was the


Hungarian cavalry. The Light Cavalry of the Magyars - the Hussars - was widely imitated by other nations, both in terms of organization and detail of uniform. At the end of the 17th century, Louis XIV ordered the establishment of three separate Hungarian regiments. Count Ladislas Bercsényi was appointed inspector general of the French Cavalry and later, in 1757, Marshal of France.

Colonel Michael Kováts (1724-1779) was another great soldier who served a foreign nation, serving as colonel in command of the Pulaski Legion in the army of the United States during the War of Independence. It was Colonel Kováts who recruited, organized, trained and led into battle the first American cavalry, of which he is the recognized founder. He was killed in action in May, 1779 at Charleston. Memorials honoring his deeds were established at the Charleston Citadel in South Carolina, in Washington D.C. and in New York City.

Colonel Kováts was the precursor of other Magyar military heroes in the service of the United States, At the time of the Civil War there were about 4000 Hungarians in the New World, most of them exiled veterans of Kossuth's army, of whom about 800 volunteered for war service. About 100 of these were officers. No other immigrant group in America fielded such a high ratio of soldiers. Two of the Hungarians fighting in the Civil War became major generals, and five reached the rank of brigadier general. Major General Julius H. Stahal (Számvald) commanded an army corps and received the Congressional Medal of Honor, General Alexander Asbóth led an army division, was in charge of a district, and was appointed the American ambassador to Argentina.

Turning to more peaceful professions, we continue with Ágoston Haraszty who entered American history by founding California's huge grape-growing industry. Haraszty began his empire by importing 200,000 grape cuttings from Europe, including the famous Tokay grapes from his native Hungary. With the passing of time, he turned over half a million California acres to viticulture, making wine growing second only to orange production in the state's agricultural economy. In recognition of his merits Haraszty was named California's State Commissioner of Viticulture. Many streets in that state bear Haraszty's name.

California was the scene of still more famous achievements by Americans of Hungarian origin who concentrated their pioneering efforts in a single city: Hollywood. It can be said that the birth of the American film industry was made possible through the efforts of such Hungarian film pioneers as Adolph Cukor and William Fox. It was Cukor who produced the first American-made full length film, The Prisoner of Zenda. He went on to produce many others through the studio he founded, Paramount Pictures. William Fox, born in the Hungarian village of Tolcsva, brought the products of Hollywood close to the people through the Fox theater-chain.

Sir Alexander Korda achieved world-wide fame in developing the film industry in Britain.

The fame of these men has been matched - in a different but related field - by Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911). Born in Makó, Hungary, he immigrated to the United States at the age of 16 and promptly enlisted in the Hungarian contingent of the First New York Cavalry Regiment. At the age of 16, already a veteran of the Civil War, Pulitzer went to St. Louis, where he began as a reporter with a German-language paper. Years later he took over the ailing St. Louis Post Dispatch and developed it into a flourishing publication under the motto "accuracy,. terseness, accuracy." In 1883, he left the Post-Dispatch and bought the New York World, which, under his leadership, became one of the outstanding newspapers in the country. When Pulitzer died in 1911, he left a donation of two million dollars to Columbia University to establish a graduate school of journalism. His name is perpetuated by the yearly distribution of Pulitzer Prizes which he inaugurated "for the encouragement of public service, public morals, American literature and the advancement of education." The prizes are presented annually to American writers, artists, and journalists.

Joseph Pulitzer also left a donation, that few know about, for something that awes millions: a fund for the flood-lighting of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

One traveler who must have passed through New York Harbor many times was the Hungarian explorer, John Xantus (1825-1894), whose priceless collection of ethnographical and mineralogical specimens are greatly valued possessions of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Commissioned first by the Institute, then by the Hungarian government, this original man travelled around the globe several times. Xantus wrote the best ethnographical works on Indians, and founded the first American Meteorological Institute in the Pacific Ocean.

If we wish to follow the path of other great Hungarian travelers we must leave the American continent for Asia, Africa. and the Pacific. Chronologically, the first was Count Móric Benyovsky (1721-1786), who discovered numerous islands in the Pacific Ocean. He was a high-style adventurer who, in the beginning of his career was captured by the Russians in the Russo-Polish war, and later interned in a fortress at Kamchatka. There he eloped with the commandant's daughter. After crisscrossing the Pacific he settled down in Madagascar, where he organized an army which conquered the entire island for France. The natives, impressed with his deeds and personality, elected him Viceroy of Madagascar.


Another Hungarian count, Samu Teleki (1845-1916) also contributed in a small way to the history of Africa. In 1888, he undertook an expedition with a friend, Louis Höhnel, to East Africa, where he discovered the salt lakes without outlets which he named Lake Rudolf and lake Stefania, and an active volcano which in turn, was named after him. Teleki's travels in Africa covered 3000 kilometers over a most difficult terrain where he discovered that, between the Great Lakes and Abessynia, there were no Moon Mountains as previously believed.

The majority of Hungarian explorers, however, were more fascinated with Asia than with any other continent.

Lajos Lóczy (1849-1920) was the first to make a geological survey of the Trans-Himalaya mountain chain that was to be fully explored later by the famous Sven Hedin, who conducted his exploration on advice received from Lóczy.

Sir Aurel Stein (1867-1943), hailed as the "Sven Hedin of England," was also a Hungarian by birth. After receiving his education in Budapest, Dresden and Vienna he moved to Tübingen and later to England where he devoted himself to Asiatic studies. In London he did intensive research into the languages, the history and the antiquities of Asian countries. After doing archeological explorations in India and Kashmir,. Aurel Stein crossed the Himalayas in 1900 to excavate the ancient ruins in the deserts of Chinese Turkestan. During his second expedition there (1906-1908) he explored the region of Lop Nor, traced the Great Wall of China, and opened up the Church of the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas, which had been brought to his attention by Lajos Lóczy. Aurel Stein was one of the few honorary members of the British Geographical Society. Stein met his death while traveling in Kabul, Afghanistan.

While these explorers may have been drawn to Asia subconsciously as the home of their early ancestors, Sándor Körösi-Csoma (1784-1842) was one man who purposefully went to Asia to find the legendary homeland of the Magyars, a goal that had been lingering in the minds of Hungarians for centuries. (Cf. Brother Julián and his search for Magna Hungaria as described in the chapter about the Mongolian invasion of Hungary).

Körösi-Csoma originally set out from his home in Transylvania to find traces of the Magyar tribes lost before the Conquest, but being diverted from his goal by circumstances, he went to Tibet instead. In his first three visits to Tibet he spent more than five years in various monasteries conducting a monk-like existence. After five years, he emerged with the world's first Tibetan dictionary (containing 40,000 words) and grammar book which were published in an English edition in 1843. Tragically, on his fourth journey to Tibet, having at last obtained some information about the Yougar people (a race possibly related to the Magyars) he was fatally struck with malaria and died in Darjeeling, without finishing his long search. Körösi-Csoma is buried in Darjeeling, his grave marked by a monument erected jointly in 1910 by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Transylvanian village of Csomakrös and the Asiatic Society of Bengal.

(This chapter is partly based on a study prepared by Joseph Hamvas.)

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Letter of Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein's 1939 letter to President Franklin Roosevelt urging development of an atomic bomb - the famous document that started the Nuclear Age - was not written by Einstein at all. It was ghostwritten for him by a relatively little-known Columbia University physicist, named Leo Szilárd.

In 1939,. Szilárd and Princeton scientist Eugene Wigner approached Einstein to ask a vital favor: Given his great stature, would he lend his name to the promotion of a serious study of nuclear energy's wartime applications and the design and construction of an atomic bomb?

Einstein agreed, although he confessed relative ignorance about nuclear chain reactions. Szilárd wrote a draft and presented it to him for his signature on Aug. 2. It spoke of the "vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radiumlike elements [that] would be generated" by a nuclear chain reaction set off in a large chunk of uranium.

The message finally went to Roosevelt. Later Einstein did write and sign two follow-up messages which, together with the first, led to the 1942 formation of the Manhattan Project, - which developed the bombs dropped on Japan in 1945. Szilárd was one of the project's guiding forces; Einstein had nothing whatsoever to do with it. "I ... only acted as a mailbox," Einstein later wrote. "They brought me a finished letter, and I simply mailed it."



Two Giants of Hungarian Science

The following essay was written for this book by the internationally known scientist and pioneer of radar astronomy.

Dr. Zoltán Bay

János Bólyai (1802-1860) was the son of Farkas Bólyai (1775-1856) who studied mathematics in Göttingen and who became an intimate friend of Karl Friedrich Gauss. Having finished his studies, Farkas returned to Marosvásárhely in his native Transylvania, where he became a high school teacher of mathematics. Besides writing Hungarian poems and theatre plays, he developed and wrote in Latin a comprehensive book on geometry, entitled Tentamen.

His son, János Bólyai was a prodigious child who, before he was 10 year old, knew trigonometry and was well acquainted with other branches of mathematics. Still in his juvenile years, he attacked the greatest problem of geometry, descended through 20 centuries from the times of Euclid: the puzzle of the postulate of the Parallelas. He turned to that problem against the most serious advice of his father, who, referring to his early discussions with Gauss, cautioned him repeatedly not to get involved in a formidable and unsolvable problem.

János Bólyai solved that "unsolvable" problem by realizing that the parallel postulate of Euclid was not necessarily a building block of the edifice of geometry. Rejecting that postulate, he succeeded in creating the first non-Euclidean geometry and wrote in an enthusiastic letter to his father in 1823: "Out of nothing I have created a new, different world," ("Semmibl új, más világot teremtettem.")

Due to an unfortunately long delay in correspondence between his father and Gauss, János Bólyai's great discovery was published only much later, in 1832, as an Appendix to Tentamen under the title: Appendix Scientiam Spatii Absolute Veram Exhibens. In the meantime, the Russian Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevskii (1793-1856) published a very similar new geometry in 1829.

János Bólyai's absolute geometry laid the foundations of modern geometry by resolving the 2000 year old problem of geometry. It opened new horizons in mathematics,. physics, and even in philosophy since it refuted the Kantian concept of "a priori space."

After producing the first example, other types of absolute geometries were developed and a systematic analysis of them was performed by Bertrand Riemann around 1850. Riemann also indicated his foresight that the new geometrical ideas could later on play some interesting role in theoretical physics. That is exactly what happened when, after the turn of our century, Albert Einstein developed the General Theory of Relativity. Relating back to Riemann's ideas, he explained gravitational forces as created by changes of geometry of space surrounding material bodies.

This theory was corroborated, among other proofs, most recently by measurements of Radar Astronomy, performed between the planets Earth and Mars. They revealed that electromagnetic microwaves (and also light) propagate slower than usual in the strong gravitational field of the sun. This slowing down of the waves shows explicitly, that space is "curved" around the sun.

It is highly interesting that a newly discovered manuscript of János Bólyai (found in 1980 in Marosvásárhely and published in facsimile by the physicist Tibor Toró) contains the statement: "... the law of gravity appears to be in an intimate connection with the structure of space" ("... a nehézkedés törvénye szoros összeköttetésben mutatkozik az r természetével").

Thus, János Bólyai, more explicitly than Riemann, almost a century ahead of General Relativity, pointed at a possible connection between gravity and geometry, proving thereby his deep insight into the understanding of the laws of nature.

* * *


Baron Loránd Eötvös (1848-1919) was the son of an excellent Hungarian politician, philosopher, and novel writer, József Eötvös. Loránd studied physics in Heidelberg under such professors as Kirchhoff, Bunsen, and Helmholtz, later in Königsberg under professor Neumann. As a young man of 23, he was appointed to the chair of physics at Budapest University. In his research activities he first turned to capillarity and designed an entirely new and accurate method for the measurement of surface tension. After collecting a rich wealth of experimental data, he developed the theory of the phenomena by recognizing a correlation between surface tension and molecular weight: the so called Eötvös-law (1866).

Thereafter, Eötvös turned to a new field in which he achieved world fame,. lasting and increasing up to today: the field of experimental research in gravity.

He developed the Eötvös gravitational torsion balance of almost incredible sensitivity. He used his instrument for two purposes.

1) To explore the distribution of matter under the surface of the earth. This made possible the search for natural resources like oil, coal, and different ores. For several decades in our century, the Eötvös torsion balance was the most effective instrument in the search for precious treasures hidden in the earth and this made the name of Eötvös world famous. It should be mentioned that Eötvös, contrary to the advice of his contemporaries, never patented his instruments and his methods, because in his opinion they should serve mankind free of any restrictions.

2) Less known during his lifetime, but increasingly appreciated and admired by the basic scientific community of today, stands an effort of Eötvös which led to his greatest contribution to physical science.

He designed and performed one of the most fundamental experiments of physics. By the use of his torsion balance,. he proved to a very high accuracy the equality of gravitational and inertial masses. Einstein based the principle of equivalence, the pillar of General Relativity, on the measurements of Eötvös. This so-called "Eötvös Experiment" is still of basic importance in modern physics and is performed repeatedly to improve its accuracy by the use of the most modern methods of experimental techniques, while using Eötvös original ideas for the design of the experiments.

Most recently, highly accurate measurements of Planetary Radar and of Lunar Laser Ranging have proven that the Earth and the Moon, two bodies of very different masses and material composition, fall at the same rate in the Sun's gravitational field. These experiments provide thus, by proving the equality of inertial and gravitational masses, a celestial extension of Eötvös's terrestrial experiments into space.

* * *

Thus, the most recent extensions of physics research into space vindicate the foresight and endeavour of two Hungarian giants of science: Bólyai and Eötvös.



By László N. Tauber, M.D., FACS, FICS

The author, a survivor of the Holocaust, left Hungary in 1946 to study under Professor Olivecrona in Stockholm. He settled In the United States in 1947. Presently, he is Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Medical Director of Jefferson Hospital in Alexandria, Virginia as well as Clinical Professor of Surgery at Georgetown University Medical School in Washington, D.C.

It is not my intention to cover the enormous accomplishments of Hungarian Jews in this brief review I touch only the surface; it is only an eye opener for those who are interested in studying the life of Hungarian Jewish men and women of excellence.

The question may arise: who is a Hungarian Jew? Is such a person a member of a religious or an ethnic group, or a fully assimilated "Magyar?" In scientific circles, for instance, the definition of a scientist is arrived at by his or her own peers. In contrast, the definition of a Jew is made more often by non-Jews, whether the person in question likes it or not.

The second question flows from the first one: what is the difference between the "Magyars" and Hungarian Jews? The answer is simple. There is no difference. There are Jewish Magyars as well as non-Jewish Magyars. Fully assimilated Hungarian Jews act like any other Hungarian, even trying many times to outdo them in patriotism, self-sacrifice, and finally in achievements, be they of scientific, cultural or economic nature.

Approximately 200 years ago when one of the Habsburg emperors needed money, he sold different family names to Jews in Hungary. He could not foresee that this "pre-emancipation" would later lead to the full assimilation and absorption of native Hungarian Jewry. In 1867 the Jewish religion was declared an equal denomination. Thereupon the meteoric rise of Jewish talent began although Jews represented only six percent of the population.

Long before the emancipation, however, the Magyar Jews enthusiastically joined Lajos Kossuth's Honvéd Army in the War of Independence in 1848. No fewer than 20,000 out of 180,000 honvéds were Jewish. Kossuth's palatine, Ignác Helfy was a Jew as was Ede Reményi, the famous violinist and General Görgey's aide-de-camp. Helfy, after returning from exile, arranged the publication of Kossuth's memoirs (Emlékirataim).

Baron Frigyes Korányi. formerly chief medical officer of the Honvéd Army initiated a nationwide campaign against the spread of tuberculosis in Hungary. He was one of the 41 Jewish scientists who became members of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Among them Henrik Marczali had been the reigning authority among Hungarian historians for decades, as was Mór Ballagi among linguists. His encyclopaedia The Full Vocabulary of the Magyar Language encompassed the complete Hungarian thesaurus for the first time. Ármin Vámbéry represented our national spirit in opposing the theory of the German Budenz on the origin of the Magyars. Mór v. Kármán (1871-1915), dubbed "Praeceptor Hungariae," introduced this national spirit to Hungary's public education. Ignácz Acsády's opus major, "The History of the Hungarian Empire" was published by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Ignác Goldziher (1850-1921) was an internationally known linguist, a member of the Academie Française and other leading science academies in Europe. Bernát Munkácsi (.1860-1937). another outstanding linguist, concentrated his studies on the origin of the Magyar language in the Volga-Káma rivers region.

Dr. Joseph Krösy (1844-1906) created nationwide attention with his book on The Slovakization of Upper Hungary (Magyarország eltótosodása), focusing on a trend which has been continuing ever since.

But perhaps Miksa Falk (1828-1908) was the most honored Jewish Hungarian in the era of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. A publicist who had been jailed for six months for advocating the restoration of the Hungarian Constitution, he became a member of Hungary's parliament, and. on the recommendation of Ferenc Deák, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences as well. Falk was entrusted by Count István Széchenyi, to prepare the anonymus writings of this "greatest Hungarian" for publication. In 1866, again on Deák's recommendation, Miksa Falk was privileged to teach the Magyar language to


Queen Elizabeth, and make her acquainted with the Hungarian literature. And what a success he had!

These were but instances of Jewish contributions to Hungarian culture while the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy had been in existence. During these times the assimilation of the Jews was so intensive that 27 families received baronial titles and over 300 families joined the ranks of the nobles. Meanwhile thousands of Jewish families disappeared as a result of mixed marriages.

In World War I, which ended with the dismemberment of the monarchy, more than 10,000 Jewish soldiers sacrificed their lives on the altar of their homeland. Their memory has been preserved in the Temple of Jewish Heroes in Budapest.

The political upheavals that occurred in Hungary after the lost war cast, however, a dark shadow on the relations between Jewish and Gentile Magyars due to the excesses committed during the short-lived "red" dictatorship, and in the subsequent crackdown (dubbed "white terror" abroad) by Horthy's counter-revolutionaries. Still, it is a little known fact that during the red dictatorship 44 Jewish Magyars were executed, and among the 72 officers of the counter-revolutionary army 15 were of the Jewish faith (20%). Horthy's first Minister of Justice,. Lajos Pálmai. was also a Jew.

Another shadow was the introduction of the numerus clausus by the Horthy regime that limited the admission of Jewish students to universities to six per cent, the exact ratio of Jews in Hungary's population. (See also p.241. Ed.) Although leaders of the Hungarian Jewry, such as Vilmos Vázsonyi and Pál Sándor deplored such discrimination, they rejected any direct political help and intervention by world Jewry. "Help only our beloved native country, Hungary, that is the only help we want," they said. According to Vázsonyi, Zionism was "unfounded and un-Magyar."

Meanwhile. as a consequence of Hungary's dismemberment at Trianon, hundreds of thousands of Jewish Magyars shared minority status with millions of non-Jew Magyars in the successor states. They carried the burdens of their Hungarianness with pride and often defiance against suppression. Jewish Magyar patriotism became proverbial, a fact manifested at census-takings in Transylvania and Slovakia whose Jewish citizens invariably declared themselves Magyars to the chagrin of census taking authorities. The latter would often be tearing their hair over the intransigence and superpatriotism of Magyar Jews. (See also page 247. Ed.)

Between the two world wars Jewish intellectuals contributed to Hungarian culture in many fields. Ferenc Molnár became world famous in projecting a witty trait of our literature to the world through his plays such as The Swan, Carousel, The Guard and The Devil. His novel, The Boys of Paul Street found its way into Hungarian hearts forever, and became a world classic through translations. Although Molnár died in exile in New York, he insisted to his dying day that his Hungarian first name, Ferenc, must not be changed in his translated works. Much earlier, in the last century, Joseph Pulitzer's name became a legend in American journalism.

Molnár's contemporary, Jen Heltay stayed in Hungary and wrote, among others, the libretto of the most typically Magyar operetta, János Vitéz. In contrast to Heltay's true Magyarness, his older cousin, Hungarian born Theodore Herzl was the founder of modern Zionism. His successor Max Nordau was also born in Budapest. to later become a philosopher in Paris.

Preceding Molnár and Heltay, World War I's most famous Jewish poet, József Kiss, gained a prominent place in Hungarian literature. World War II also produced a potentially immortal Jewish poet in the person of Miklós Radnóti who, even in adversity and facing death in a Nazi camp, kept clinging to his Magyarness until his last breath. He died as a young man, survived by another internationally known other Jewish writer and poet, György Faludi. His poem titled ''To the Tyrant'' was perhaps the most devastating condemnation of the post-1956 communist regime of Hungary.

In the field of sciences, the quotas of the numerus clausus were broken, for example, in winning Nobel Prizes. Of the seven Hungarian Nobel laureates, five were Jews (Robert Bárány, George de Hevesy, Dénes Gábor, Eugene Wigner and Elie Wiesel). Jewish scientists earned respect and admiration in Hungary and abroad. Books could be filled in describing their names and achievements through which they have enriched the culture of their native or their adoptive countries.

Unfortunately,. premonitory rumblings of the coming Holocaust prompted some to leave not only Hungary but Europe as well. While it is true that not all of Hitler's victims were Jewish, in fact all the Jews were victims, in one way or another, of Nazism.

Contributions of outstanding Jewish scientists of Hungarian origin are well known. John v. Neumann, the greatest mathematician of this century (Einstein was a physicist. Ed.) received an award from President Eisenhower with the citation that no one had contributed more to the defense of the Western Hemisphere than John v. Neumann. Leo Szilárd was the real force behind the atomic bomb, and Eugene Wigner is a Nobel Prize winning physicist. All three attended the Fasor gymnasium, a Lutheran school in Budapest. Two other towering figures in science, Tódor von Kármán and Ede Teller were also graduates of the Minta (model) gymnasium founded by Mór v. Kármán, Tódor's father.

Tódor v. Kármán was the greatest aeronautical engineer of his time. He was the first recipient of the National Science Merit Medal, awarded to him by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, Kármán was born and raised in an observant Jewish family, while Ede Teller, the father of the "H" bomb, is the son of a well known Jewish lawyer in Budapest. At one time it was quoted that more Fermi Awards were given to Hungarian Jews than to all other scientists of the world combined.

Hungarian musicians and composers of Jewish origin also have made their mark on the world, Joseph Szigeti, Eugene Ormándy, Sir George Solti, Miklós Rózsa, Antal Dorati, Károly Goldmark, Tibor Kozma, János Starker, Otto Herz and Annie Fischer won world-fame. Hungarian Jews who excelled in film making and acting included Alexander Korda, Adolf Cukor, George Cukor, William Fox, Joe Pasternak, Michael Curtis, Menyhért Lengyel (Ninotschka), Tony


Curtis, Leslie Howard, Szke Szakáll, Béla Lugosi and Peter Lorre.

In fine arts, Sándor Bihari, Adolf Fényes, Lipót Hermann, Izsák Perlmutter, Fülöp László (the most renown portrait painter of his time) and Irányi Béla Grunwald were of Jewish origin.

Respected Hungarian industrialists and bankers of Jewish origin included Baron Manfred Weisz, Lipót Aschner, Jen Vida, Ferenc Chorin, Wolfner. Mauthner, Leó Lánczy, Fülöp Weisz, Kornfeld, Kohner. Korányi, Ullman and Emil Stein. Alfred Manovill of the Mendelson Bank House in Berlin, and Simon Krausz helped tie Hungary economically to the Western World.

Among Jewish Hungarian entrepreneurs a special honor is due to Móricz Fischer (1800-1880) who in 1839 founded the china-factory in Herend, whose products are still prized world wide.

In the field of medicine, Professor Bertalan Stiller and Henrik Benedict were among the greatest internists of their time, Baron Sándor Korányi was nominated for the Nobel Prize for his basic research in nephrology. Hugo Richter, neurologist also was a nominee for the Nobel Prize. Theodore Bársony was one of the greatest radiologists while Jen Polya gained world reputation as a surgeon. Among the emigrated physicians Soma Weisz, Professor of Medicine at Harvard was a student of Pál Hary,. the world famous physiologist in Budapest.

Henry Lax was one of the most celebrated physicians in New York with patients such as Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson and many other famous Americans. Béla Shick developed the test for determining susceptibility to diphtheria. Alexander Nádas was professor of pediatric cardiology at Harvard. Francis F, Földes is a world renown anesthesiologist, George Gomori discovered the non-beta cells of the pancreas. George Klein, a member of the Nobel Committee for the last 30 years, is one of the world's leading cancer researchers. Hungarian Jews are also well represented among mathematicians of world reputation. with names such as Lipót Fejér, Gyula Konig, Mihály Fekete, Beke, Rados, Réti, Polya and Erds.

In sports, Jewish-Hungarian athletes also excelled. Alfred Hajós, back in 1896, was the first Olympic champion in swimming in the 100o m and 1200 m events, held in Athens. Béla Komjáti was the coach of Hungary's legendary water-polo team, which dominated this sport for 25 years. György Brody and István Barta were members of Komjáti's gold medalist team. Éva Székely was an Olympic champion in swimming, followed in her footsteps by her daughter, Andrea Gyarmaty, a silver medalist. Éva Szke was an Olympic champion in the 100 meter freestyle. Ágnes Keleti was a multiple gold medalist in gymnastics in subsequent Olympics. Richard Weisz and Károly Kárpáti won Olympic championships in wrestling.

But perhaps the most successful Jewish-Hungarian athletes were our fencers. Numerous Olympic, world and European championships were won by them decade after decade. Dr. Jen Fuchs was a two-time individual saber Olympic champion in 1908 and 1912. His worthy successors were Attila Petschauer, Endre Kabos, János Garai, Sándor Gombos, Sándor Posta, Oszkár Gerde. Lajos Werkner. Among the women was Ilona Elek a multiple Olympic champion in foil fencing, the most successful woman fencer of all time. Ferenc Mez and Alfréd Hajós won first prizes awarded in literary and architectural contests related to the Olympic games. In the most popular Hungarian sport, soccer, "Csibi" Braun, György Molnár, Vilmos Kertész and Gyula Mandl were among the greatest Magyar soccer players.

In closing, let me mention a few men of excellence who have retained their Hungarian heritage while living abroad. George Soros, a survivor of the Holocaust has become known as one of the world's most acclaimed mutual fund managers and philanthropists. Miklós Deák founded the Deák-Pereira Corporation, and former U.S, Ambassador to Hungary, Miklós Salgó is also a highly successful entrepreneur.

It goes without saying that clinging to Judaism is quite compatible with love and spiritual attachment to our native land wherever we live. We remember nostalgically, that the meteoric rise of Hungarian Jewry coincided with the Kingdom of Hungary reaching the zenith of her modern history. The Jewish Magyars shared the jubilation over the Millennium of the nation as much as they mourned the unjust dismemberment of their country in Trianon. While we also still mourn the terrible losses of Hungarian Jewry in the Holocaust, we do realize that Hungary has remained virtually the last bastion of Jewry in Central Europe. Thus, once more. a common destiny looms over Jewish and non-Jewish Magyars alike. a destiny which obligates them to work shoulder to shoulder, combining their amazing talents, for a better future of their dismembered nation in the Carpathian Basin.


A Rabbi's "Prophecy" Comes True

Sooner than Expected

In November, 1989, perhaps the darkest days of Ceausescu's terror regime, Reverend László Tkés, the beleaguered pastor in Temesvár (Timisoara), sent a letter to Rabbi Tamás Raj of Budapest asking for help. Their correspondence is reproduced here in part:

Reverend Tkés to Rabbi Raj

...A few years ago Rabbi Moses Rosen in a speech put noteworthy, universal truth into words. Reminding his audience to the victims of the Holocaust, the rabbi concluded that under given circumstances the children of any people could qualify as "Jews." and if this happens, mankind ought to raise its voice in their defense...

In full faculty of my responsibility I can state that we, Transylvanian Hungarians and Christians have gradually been turned into "Jews" in Rumania at such a pace and intensity with which anti-Jewish laws were effected in the past. Amidst the universal misery of the Rumanian nation, such a fate has become our doubtful "privilege," a burden we are trying to carry in reliance on our remaining faith and the peculiar consciousness of the "chosen ones."

...Prompted by my surging sense of justice, I'm now taking the liberty to turn to you. dear Rabbi, appealing to the painful historical sensibility ingrained in Jewish hearts, to ask your support and help for my tormented flock and for myself in Temesvár, and beyond that for the entire Magyar population with their Christian communities in Transylvania.

I'm convinced that the best antidote to both anti-Semitism and anti-Hungarianism as well as to national or religious antagonism and discordance is brotherly love on universal level...

Rabbi Raj to Tkés on December 8, 1989:

...I was deeply touched by your letter, a cry which was heard from a depth created by human evil...

...The vision of Prophet Isaiah comes to my mind: "Say guard, how long this night is going to last?" The guard replied:

"Morning will certainly arrive crushing the dark of the night!"

I hope that the Liberator of prisoners will put an end both to your persecution as a person and to the ordeal of the Magyars of Transylvania very soon. "May the desperate plea of the prisoners find its way before You, oh God..."

The Jews of Transylvania never regarded the cause of minorities with indifference; they identified themselves with the fate of the Magyars in Transylvania. They also had been subjects of double persecution with dark shadows of anti-Semitism and anti-Hungarianism cast upon them. The Magyars of Transylvania may have been turned into "Jews." but the Jews themselves did become Magyars long-long time ago.

An example was the city of Nagyvárad (now called Oradea) where Jewish enthusiasm and generosity were instrumental to no small degree in transforming that city into the "Magyar Paris." In Transylvania even the Zionists themselves had been clinging to their Magyar mother language as they continue to do so now, far from their native land, in the country of their ancestors...

By God's grace both of us are practising priests (in opposition to the powerful, if we must) united in common faith whose foundation can be found in the Hebrew Old Testament. What else can I write to you but the Prophet's message which was put on the night guard's lips:

"The morning will come and the night will vanish." Or as it is written in the Book of Psalms: "The Lord will bring salvation for the souls of His servants; those who believe in Him will not be let down."

(By Christmas the Salvation came and the tyrant was gone. Ed)

* * *


The first stanza in Hungarian


Nem tudhatom, hogy másnak e tájék mit jelent,

nekem szlhazám itt e lángoktól ölelt

kis ország, messzeringó gyerekkorom világa.

Belle nttem én, mint fatörzsbl gyönge ága

s remélem, testem is majd e földbe süpped el.


I cannot know how other people feel about

this flame-surrounded little country; out

of this I grew as from strong trunks weak branches grow.

It is my native land, my childhood's world; I know

and hope my body will be buried in this soil.

I am at home. When sometimes bushes start to coil

around my feet, I know them and their flower's name,

I know him, too, who walks the road, from whence he came

and also know the meaning of the purple woe

which drips from house-walls in the summer's evening glow.

It is a map for him who flies across this landscape's belt,

he does not know where Michael Vörösmarty dwelt -

What does his map reveal? A barrack, factory?

These are grasshoppers, oxen, steeples, towns for me;

his fieldglass shows him workshops, farms which upward lurk:

I see that worker too who fears to lose his work

and see the forests, whistling orchards, vineyards, graves,

a sobbing aged woman, too, among the graves;

above, he sees a passing train, a factory,

below, a railroad worker signals and I see

a red flag in his hand and children all around,

inside the spacious yards dogs roll upon the ground;

I see footsteps of bygone loves there, on the street,

the kisses' flavor, in my mouth, is bitter, sweet;

walking into the school when I was all alone

I stepped (to pass examinations) on a stone;

well, here's the stone but from above, it's very flat,

there are no instruments which ever could show that.

We are as guilty as the others are; we now

well realize when we have sinned and where and how;

yet workers, poets live here, too, without a fault,

and babies in whom an understanding will exult

and light in them; they save it hidden in the dark

till fingers of a peace can signal us a spark

and answer on our stifled words with words aloud...

Cover us with your large wings, night's watchful cloud!


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