Scientific life in the Hungarian People’s Republic

Excerpt taken from Zoltan Halasz, Unkari: kuvitettu tietoteos [Hungary: an illustrated factbook], (1960), pp. 195-199. Translated by ML-theory.

This text by Halasz obviously only scratches the surfaces and leaves out such scientists as agrobiologist Dr. Sándor Rajki and geologist Elemér Vadász, and many others. However, it gives some information. When I have the time and some more resources I’ll try to create a page dedicated to the science of the Hungarian People’s Republic, similar to the one I’ve made about the USSR.



Hungarian scientific life has developed many world-renowned researchers, inventors and scientists. Examples of internationally famous scientists include Sándor Körösi Csoma, who wrote the first tibetan dictionary and grammar, skilled orientalists Armin Vámbéry and Aurél Stein, as well as Gábor Szarvas and Mór Ballagi, and other linguists who have researched related languages. The eradicator of puerperal fever, Ignác Semmelweiss is known in history as “the savior of mothers”, discoveries of Loránd Eötvös, developed further by his students, are used all over the world to measure gravity and for finding useful minable resources. Donát Bánki, who was one of the most significant engineers of his day, invented in 1892 together with János Csonka a carbonator. By using the turbine developed by him it was possible to utilize water power better than before. Károly Zipernovszky, Miksa Déri and Ottó Titusz Bláthy developed principles of energy transmission in transformers, and the first transformer station was put into operation by them. The electronic locomotive of Kálmán Kandón as well as the cylinder mill and first steam-powered earth cultivator of András Mechwart have became internationally renowned. Hungarian Oszkár Asbóth designed the first functioning helicopter.

Despite great successes, in the past the work of Hungarian scientists was hampered by countless factors and under capitalist conditions many valuable initiatives were ignored. The reform of Hungarian scientific life began only after the liberation of the country. In the opinion of the people’s democratic government, the economic development of the country and the tasks of the cultural revolution definitely required the reorganization of scientific life. For that reason, not without significant material sacrifices, material conditions for scientific research work were created, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, which had a glorious history but had largely lost its importance between the two world wars, was again made the leading institution of scientific life by entirely reorganizing its activities. Nowadays in the academy’s departments, in its institutes, as well as in the scientific research institutes of the ministries – in 119 research institutes in total – planned theoretical and practical research work is carried out, which succesfully continues and develops the work of Hungarian scientists of previous centuries.

Within the academy there operates a linguistic and literary section, and under its leadership the institute of literary history researches, first of all, questions of the history and development of Hungarian literature. The institute of linguistics is preparing a ten volume Hungarian dictionary.

The institute of economics, which belongs to the section of social-historical sciences, is studying in great detail the questions of socialist planned economy. Along with preparing textbooks for the highest academic levels, the institute of history researches the history of Hungary and the neighboring nations.

The section of mathematics and physics studies the most current questions of theoretical research and has often achieved internationally recognized results.

The recently deceased Frigyes Ries and Lipot Fejér as well as György Alexits and Alfréd Rényi and others, are internationally known in scientific circles because of their mathematical researches.

The head of the central institute of physics, academician Lajos Jánossy, has achieved results in researching the twofold nature of light, which have sparked great interest internationally. With the help of the Soviet academy of sciences, Hungary’s first nuclear reactor has been built into the same institute. Hungarian nuclear physicists are now attempting to independently build nuclear reactors and even nuclear power plants.

In the field of nuclear research Hungarian scientists and researchers can present a respectable list of achievements. At the second atomic energy conference in Geneva, ten proposals of Hungarian scientists were accepted, four of which dealt with the biological, one with agricultural, and four with measurement uses of radioactive isotopes, while one dealt with professor Lajos Imre’s patented new method of producing isotopes. Hungarian atomic energy committee’s special committee on applications of isotopes organized a meeting in the fall of 1958, where 33 lectures were given on the achievements of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in industrial, agricultural, biological and other research as well as in medicine.

The academy’s section on agricultural sciences deals in detail with problems of developing the Hungarian agriculture. Hungarian corn breeders have achieved beautiful results in creating new hybrids. In the field of veterinary science books written by Hungarian scientists are used as textbooks in universities and institutes of higher learning both in Hungary and abroad.

The biological and medical section as well as the biological group successfully research new methods of examination and treatment. Very noteworthy is the research in the effect of radiation on the organism as well as curing cancer tumors.

The section of chemical sciences also carry out theoretical and practical research. The work of the section has been significantly improved by a new central chemistry research institute. Simultaneously Hungarian researchers have achieved ever better results in creating synthetic substances, studying their properties and in the scope of their field of application.

From the members of the section on technical sciences professor László Heller has already twice with world-renowned inventions improved power plant technology. He has together with engineer László Forgó designed the so-called “dry cooling tower”, which solves the issue of water maintenance of heating and nuclear plants in water scarce regions. Previously his system for solving the active cooling of electric generators and improving their efficiency, has attracted worldwide attention. Professor Ottó Benedikt has designed a new type of diesel locomotive with an asynchronous motor, and academician Elemér Szádeczky-Kardoss has achieved significant results in his research on the ionization system of ore formation.

Internationally significant occasions of Hungarian scientific and technical life are the events organized by the more than thirty member organizations of the Union of societies of technical and natural sciences. In 1958 over forty foreign scientists and engineers participated in the Hungarian machine industry week, organized by the Scientific society of machine industry, during which lectures were given on the achievements and plans of Hungarian advanced machine industry, and noted foreign experts also gave presentations. More than a hundred foreigners took part in the 50th anniversary congress of Hungarian chemists, and there the best chemists of Europe met each other and discussed questions of chemistry of both “traditional” and synthetic substances. Hungarian precision mechanical industry and research are internationally highly regarded, so the international body for precision mechanics IMEKO has its headquarters in Budapest, and at its meeting in 1958 in Budapest nearly 800 scientists, researchers and engineers from different parts of the world were present. Along with the Hungarian academy of sciences the other center of Hungarian scientific life is the House of technique, which is the center of the Societies for technical and natural sciences. Inside its halls, in the meetings of specialty fields of the societies and at club evenings, scientists, researchers, practical engineers and advanced professional workers meet each other, and their joint work livens Hungarian scientific life and develops the industry and national economy of Hungary.


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