MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS BUDAPEST

                                                                                                                    No. 5/2000

                                    HONOURED CREATIVITY
On the verge of the third millennium, science is playing an increasingly                 the Nobel centenary is a process cover-
important role in shaping our world. The future belongs to a knowledge-                  ing four main stations. These stages are
based society. As such, support for scientific activity, the assessment of its           immortalised by the centenary series of
performance, its material and moral recognition, in other words motivat-                 stamps of four face values, of which the
ing scientists to achieve new results, is vital. In this respect a system of             first depicts the Nobel testament of
                                                                                         1895 and the last shows the first prize
prizes is of key importance. In the field of sciences, the best known honour
                                                                                         awarding ceremony in 1901.
given for outstanding performance is the Nobel Prize. The first Nobel                        Nobel founded five prizes, to be
Prizes were awarded in 1901. The centenary in 2001 will be celebrated                    awarded in physics, chemistry, physiol-
with a large exhibition that places the emphasis on the culture of creativi-             ogy or medicine, literature and peace.
ty, the creative individual and the milieu supporting this creativity. During            These categories were complemented
the anniversary, attention is - quite rightly - being focused on the remark-
able achievements of Hungarian scientists and also Budapest, the capital of
Hungary. In his Neumann-biography published in 1992, Norman Macrea,
former editor-in-chief of The Economist and the researcher of the Japanese
economic miracle, wrote about Budapest at the time the first Nobel Prizes
were awarded: “Early in this century, Budapest was the fastest developing
metropolis in Europe. This city produced a multitude of scientists, artists
and future millionaires, which is unparalleled except in the renaissance
city-states of Italy.” Hungary, although a small country with respect to its
population, is, however, a major one with respect to the recognition its has
earned in the scientific community and the performance of its scientists;
over the course of the 20th century no less than twelve Nobel Laureates -
seven of them sons of Budapest - trace their roots back to Hungary. In the
following, the Nobel Laureates of Hungarian origin and their messages that
point to the future are presented.

Alfred Nobel and the Nobel Prize

       lfred Nobel, who gave his name       of fields, irrespective of nationality and
       to the most high-ranking scientif-   taking only performance into consider-
       ic honour, now celebrating its       ation, including basic research in natu-
centenary, was born in Stockholm on         ral sciences and the creation of a peace-
21st October 1833. A chemist of consid-     ful society. Nobel died in San Remo on
erable renown, Nobel used the fortune       10th December 1896. Thus, his last will
he gained from the development of           entered into force and the first steps
explosives and the industrial applica-      towards the establishment of the Nobel
tion of science to launch a foundation      Foundation were made. The Swedish
with a noble purpose. His last will and     Royal Council in its decree of 29th June
testament of 27th November 1895 raised      1900 confirmed the statutes of this
a monument to his own memory, while         Foundation. The first Nobel Prizes were
also rendering a service to mankind.        awarded in the first year of the 20th
   His intention was to reward the most     century, on 10th December 1901, the
prominent figures in the most diverse       anniversary of Nobel’s death. As such,
by a prize awarded for work in eco-
nomic sciences, founded in memory of
Alfred Nobel by the Bank of Sweden on
the occasion of the 300th anniversary of
its existence in 1968. The ‘Prize of
Prizes’ is accompanied by a diploma
bearing a citation, a gold medal and a
sum of about 1 million US dollars.
Today, the moral prestige of the prize
has increased to such an extent that this
represents its main value. On receiving
the prize, the recipients make a short
speech of acknowledgement and, as
                                              Stamp issued on the centenary of the Nobel testament depicting Nobel Prize winners
part of the ceremony, they give a Nobel
lecture on how they achieved their            of Hungarian origin
result.                                       several countries through their work,      the money so as to link his personal
   The Nobel Prize does not serve to          which, at the same time, also enriches     financial interests to peace.
honour an outstanding scientific career       these countries in both scientific and        When the Soviet Union attacked
and the lifework of a scientist. As a         human terms. As an example, we only        Finland in autumn 1939, a money-rais-
researcher and inventor, Nobel himself        have to look at the personal careers and   ing campaign was launched and the
was well aware of the essence of dis-         scientific lifework of those Hungarian     world famous researcher offered his
covery and invention. Accordingly, he         and Hungarian-origin Nobel Laureates       gold medal to support the Finnish
directed in his will that the prize be        who have qualified for the “Pantheon       nation. This meant there was a risk that
awarded for specific performances and         of Immortals”.                             this exceptional honour of the
results. The reasoning behind the                                                        Hungarian nation would be taken out
awarding of the Nobel Prize always            Nobel Laureates of                         of the country and melted down. On
includes a sentence that accurately                                                      the initiation of count István Zichy, then
defines the specific performance that is      Hungarian origin                           director of the Hungarian National
being recognised.                             Albert von Szent-Györgyi Nagyrapolt        Museum, and with the assistance of
   In accordance with the rules, a            was the one of those Hungarian sci-        Onni Talas, Ambassador for Finland,
Nobel Prize can be shared by up to            entists who travelled from Hungary to      Wilhelm Hilbert, company director in
                                                                                         Helsinki, purchased the valuable medal
                                                                                         and donated it to the Hungarian
                                                                                         National Museum in June 1940.
                                                                                            This Nobel gold medal with its
                                                                                         famous history was first put on display
                                                                                         to the general public in 1993, when an
                                                                                         exhibition of Nobel Prize winners was
                                                                                         opened in the Hungarian National
                                                                                         Museum on the occasion of the hun-
                                                                                         dredth anniversary of the birth of Albert
                                                                                         von Szent-Györgyi Nagyrapolt.
                                                                                            Together with Albert von Szent-
                                                                                         Györgyi Nagyrapolt, 12 scientists of
                                                                                         Hungarian origin have been granted
                                                                                         this high-ranking and rare distinction.
          Obverse and reverse of Albert von Szent-Györgyi’s Nobel medal                  In their honour, the Hungarian Post
                                                                                         Office issued a stamp in 1995, the cen-
three persons. Consequently, only few         Stockholm to receive the highest-          tenary of the Nobel testament. The
from among the large number of scien-         ranking scientific prize. His Nobel        Nobel Prize was awarded to: Philipp E.
tists can hope to be honoured with a          medal is today held at the Hungarian       A. von Lenard in physics in 1905,
Nobel Prize. Considering that the list of     National Museum in Budapest.               Robert Bárány in medicine in 1914,
Nobel Laureates is, for the most part, a         Our scientist took the 66-mm diame-     Richard A. Zsigmondy in chemistry in
list of scientific world-celebrities of the   ter, 208-gram gold medal Nobel Prize       1925, Albert von Szent-Györgyi
century that has passed since the first       from the Swedish capital to his research   Nagyrapolt in medicine in 1937, George
prizes were awarded, it is indeed a           laboratory at the University of Szeged     de Hevesy in chemistry in 1943, Georg
great honour to qualify for this list.        and kept it there until the outbreak of    von Békésy in medicine in 1961, Eugene
    Essentially, science is international,    the Second World War. As a result of       P. Wigner in physics in 1963, Dennis
and scientists can contribute to several      the war, he lost the money which came      Gabor in physics in 1971, John C.
professional fields and to the wealth of      with the prize; in fact, he had invested   Polanyi in chemistry in 1986, Elie

2                                                                                        NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN
Wiesel for peace in 1986, George A.         necessary for his research was obtained      is considered the beginning of mod-
Olah in chemistry in 1994 and John C.       from Hungarian paprika. However, this        ern muscular biology.
Harsanyi in economics in 1994.              represented only a sideline of his scien-       After that, Szent-Györgyi rushed
   As is apparent, scientists working       tific activity. Throughout his long          off to his laboratory every morning
in the natural sciences are dominant:       career, Szent-Györgyi focussed his           for a further 40 years, even after his
three prizes in physics and physiolo-       research on life and the essence of life.    emigration to the United States in
gy-medicine each and four prizes in             Energy is required for the function-     1947. The third field of his research
chemistry, one prize for peace and          ing of a living organism. This energy is     became the illness that carried away
one prize for economics. Hungarian          derived from the combustion of nutri-        his wife, his daughter and John von
scientists are characterised by their       ents. At that time there were two            Neumann, his friend. He was still
interdisciplinarity. For example,           schools of thought to explain the            engaged in researching the secret of
Albert von Szent-Györgyi Nagyrapolt         method of combustion. In the Warburg         cancer at the age of 90. For
started in medicine and, through bio-       school, oxygen is activated while,           Hungarians, he became the symbol -
chemistry, arrived at physics. Georg        according to the Wieland school, it is       even during his lifetime - of a free
von Békésy did this the other way           the hydrogen in the nutrient that is acti-   spirited, humanist scientist.
round: he was educated in physics           vated. Szent-Györgyi combined these
and lectured as a professor of physics,     two schools of thought and showed that          Georg von Békésy (1899 - 1972) was
worked as a telecommunications              the active oxygen oxidises the active        awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology
research engineer and, finally, he was      hydrogen. This process consists of a         or Medicine in 1961 “for his discoveries
granted the Nobel Prize for                 long string of complicated reactions in      of the physical mechanism of stimula-
Physiology-Medicine. Let us now             which the energy of hydrogen atoms is        tion within the cochlea”.
consider in detail what achievements        progressively released during the
in the fields of physiology and             sequence of step-by-step conversions.
physics to economics were rewarded              Szent-Györgyi devoted more than
with Nobel Prizes.                          ten years to the examination of oxido-
                                            reduction processes. The discovery of
Nobel Laureates in                          a significant part of the oxidation
                                            chain-links was the basis on which he
physiology and medicine                     was awarded the Nobel Prize. The
Albert von Szent-Györgyi Nagyrapolt         remaining elements of the citrate
(1893 - 1986) was awarded the Nobel         cycle and its complete mechanism
Prize for Physiology and Medicine in        were explained by one of his friends,
1937 “for his discoveries in connec-        Hans Krebs (1900 - 1981), who also
tion with the biological combustion         obtained a Nobel Prize; the correct
processes, with special reference to        designation of the cycle is the Szent-
vitamin C and the catalysis of fumar-       Györgyi-Krebs cycle.
ic acid.”                                       Following the presentation of the
   Szent-Györgyi’s discovery of vitamin     Nobel Prize in 1937, Szent-Györgyi
C had a part to play in winning the         did not rest on his laurels: in 1939,
prize; in fact, vitamin C in the quantity   new research and discoveries were
                                            started. There is no doubt that the
                                            blossoming of muscular research in
                                            both Hungary and at the international           The most significant element of
                                            level is linked with the results             Békésy’s lifework is the observation
                                            achieved by Szent-Györgyi and his            and description of the mechanical-
                                            school in Szeged. “The years 1940 to         physical processes that take place in
                                            1942 were a great success not only for       the cochlea and the development of a
                                            Szent-Györgyi but also for us in what        new theory relating to the nature of
                                            we were able to achieve with respect         hearing. Békésy was the first to devel-
                                            to the contraction of muscles. In my         op a model that effectively functioned
                                            opinion, in the life of Szent-Györgyi,
                                            this success surpassed that rewarded
                                            by the Nobel Prize,” said Bruno
                                            Straub (1914 - 1996), a senior research
                                            worker in the former team of Szent-
                                            Györgyi and an internationally reput-
                                            ed scientist, who continued research
                                            in this field, while evaluating the
                                            results obtained half a century ago.
                                            Their discovery achieved at that time

NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN                                                                                        3
                                                                                    the biological manuals, will form a
                                                                                    common        chapter      in    certain
                                                                                       In his lifework, he linked research
                                                                                    activity performed in the fields of
                                                                                    physics, communications technology
                                                                                    and physiology, and his scientific
                                                                                    work with the arts. He collected
                                                                                    works of art of particular value and
                                                                                    passed them on to the Nobel
                                                                                    Foundation in his will. Right up until
                                                                                    his death he worked on interdiscipli-
                                                                                    nary synthesis, leaving as his heritage
                                                                                    the continuation of this task.
                                                                                       In his speech delivered when he
                                                                                    received the Nobel Prize, he said his
                                                                                    work could be traced back to the
                                                                                    ‘founding father’ “...Robert Bárány,
                                                                                    the first holder of a prize for otology,
                                                                                    who is similarly of Hungarian origin. I
                       Georg von Békésy’s Nobel diploma
                                                                                    do not believe this to be mere chance.
in a manner similar to the cochlea,       as a researcher engaged in a field        Otology in Hungary is practised at a
and which allowed the processes to        close to his research activity - knew     very high level and surrounded with
be observed and photographed more         that his theory of hearing that formed    interest. I long suspected that there
accurately as compared to ear dissec-     the basis of his Nobel Prize was com-     had been an outstanding person who
tions. His success was the result of      pleted as early as 1944. Indeed, his      founded all this. I had already been
careful and profound examinations         theory on how the mechanism of ner-       searching for a considerable time
and a large number of measurements        vous inhibition contributes to the dis-   when I discovered his name. He was
relating to the components of the         tinction of ‘signal’ from ‘noise’ was     Hôgyes...” Endre Hôgyes (1847 -
cochlea.                                  perhaps more brilliant. This theory in    1906) had been engaged in the
   Békésy received the Nobel Prize        itself would be worthy of a Nobel         research of the reflex path of associat-
after he had been working for more        Prize today”.                             ed eye-movements and their relation-
than a decade in the USA, while the          For Békésy, research on the ear        ship with the labyrinth system since
Nobel Prize was actually awarded for      and hearing was one of the ways of        1880. These extremely important
work he carried out in Hungary. This      approaching a comprehensive study         experiments conducted on animals
was confirmed by János Szentágothai       of the human senses. In his Nobel         preceded similar tests performed on
(1912 - 1994), the world-famous brain     lecture, he called attention to this      humans by Robert Bárány. In his
researcher, who said “In the years        subject. “Perhaps the day is not very     Nobel speech, Bárány also made ref-
between 1931 and 1944, I, being in        far when the three organs of sense –      erence to Endre Hôgyes.
close relationship to him - as a med-     ears, skin and eyes – which are
ical student at the beginning and later   clearly separated from each other in         Robert Bárány (1876 - 1936) was
                                                                                    awarded the Nobel Prize for
                                                                                    Physiology and Medicine in 1914
                                                                                    “for his work on the physiology and
                                                                                    pathology of the vestibular appara-
                                                                                       Robert Bárány completed his med-
                                                                                    ical studies at the University of
                                                                                    Vienna. He went on to study at
                                                                                    German universities in the field of
                                                                                    internal medicine and neurology-psy-
                                                                                    chiatry. Later, he joined the otology
                                                                                    clinic in Vienna. His work that won
                                                                                    him the Nobel Prize was founded on
                                                                                    clinical and experimental examina-
                                                                                    tions he carried out here.
                                                                                       A simple clinical observation
                                                                                    attracted his attention to the balanc-
                                                                                    ing organ located in the cochlea. He
Harvard University Memorial Hall where Georg von Békésy worked                      often performed ear rinses on his

4                                                                                   NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN
                                            Nobel Prize Laureates in                     covery of limit wavelength in the
                                            Physics                                      photoelectric effect and the role of
                                                                                         activators in phosphorescence.
                                            Philipp Eduard Anton von Lenard
                                            (1862 - 1947) was awarded the Nobel            Eugene P. Wigner (1902 - 1995)
                                            Prize for Physics in 1905 “for his work      was awarded the Nobel Prize for
                                            on cathode rays”.                            Physics in 1963, shared with Maria
                                                He started his research activity under   Goeppert-Mayer (1906 - 1972) and
                                            the leadership of Heinrich Hertz (1857 -
                                            1894), examining the radiation generat-
                                            ed in the Crookes tube. He passed cath-
                                            ode rays through a thin leaf of metal
                                            (Lenard window) out of the tube to the
                                            atmosphere or into another closed
                                            tube, thus allowing them to be studied.
                                            He found that the permeation capabili-
                                            ty of the rays depends on their velocity.
                                            During their permeation through mate-
                                            rials, the rays are exposed to forces. He
                                            came to the conclusion that the atoms
                                            are composed of positive and negative
patients, during which the patients         particles that fill only a very small part
often became dizzy. It appeared that        of the space (dynamide theory), and
their dizziness was in direct relation      that the cathode ray somehow carries a
to the temperature of the rinsing liq-      negative charge.
uid. The patient did not become                 In studying the photoelectric
dizzy if lukewarm water was used,           effect, he found that the speed of
while the use of cold or overly warm        electrons leaving a metal surface
water caused dizziness. This is             depends only on the frequency, while
explained by the fact that the tem-         the number of electrons depends on
perature of lympha circulating with-        the intensity of light. This former dis-     Hans Daniel Jensen (1907 - 1973) “for
in the ducts of the cochlea is about        covery of his founded the basis for          his contributions to the theory of the
37 °C. Variations in temperature            the atom theory of Ernest Rutherford         atomic nucleus and the elementary
cause this liquid to circulate and,         (1871 - 1937), while the latter served       particles, particularly through the
depending on whether cold or warm                                                        discovery and application of funda-
water is used, the liquid passes to                                                      mental symmetry principles”.
different ducts and results in dizzi-                                                       Eugene P. Wigner pursued his gram-
ness. So, the information gained on                                                      mar school studies in the famous Fasor
the position of the human body is                                                        evangelic grammar school in Budapest,
disturbed, and this is reflected by the                                                  and gained admission to the University
rapid involuntary oscillation of the                                                     of Berlin to become a chemical engi-
eyeballs (nystagmus). The phenome-                                                       neer according to the wishes of his
non corresponds to a biological                                                          father. In the twenties, Berlin was the
reflex mechanism and is called                                                           centre of modern physics. Wigner also
Bárány’s caloric reaction. Its failure is                                                attended the classes and seminars of
of a pathological character as it indi-                                                  Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955), Max
cates that the pathological (mostly                                                      Planck (1858 - 1947) and Max von Laue
inflammatory)       processes      have                                                  (1879 - 1960). In Berlin, he prepared his
reached the cochlea. This biological                                                     doctoral thesis - a pioneering work in
process is also connected to the phe-                                                    quantum-chemistry - under the guid-
nomenon of seasickness.                                                                  ance of Michael Polanyi (1891 - 1976).
   In fact, the whole of Bárány’s work                                                      Having completed his university
covered the boundary areas of otol-                                                      studies in Berlin, he returned home to
ogy and neurology. His descendants                                                       utilise his qualification in his father’s
include a number of physicians. One                                                      tanning factory. When he learned that
of his grandchildren, Anders Bárány,                                                     Werner Heisenberg (1901 - 1976) and
became a physicist and, as a secretary      as a basis for the discovery of the law      Max Born (1882 - 1970) had developed
of the Nobel Prize Committee for            of the photoelectric effect developed        the science of quantum mechanics, he
Physics, he was able to participate in      by Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955). His        returned to Berlin. With the help of his
awarding a number of honours.               most important results were the dis-         old teacher, Michael Polanyi, he joined

NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN                                                                                         5
the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute where he
examined the problem: why do atoms
“prefer” to sit in the symmetry planes
and at symmetry points of crystals?
Starting from this, he was the first to
realise that space-time symmetries play
a central role in quantum mechanics. In
his book entitled Group Theory and Its
Application to the Quantum Mechanics
of Atomic Spectra he showed that all
the significant precise results of quan-
tum mechanics could be achieved
through symmetry groups. This is also
emphasised in the reasoning of the
Nobel Prize awarded in 1963.
   In the thirties, Wigner travelled to
the United States where he worked at
Princeton University for the next six
decades. During the Second World
War, he played an outstanding part in      Nobel Prize winners of 1971. From left, Simon Kuznets, Pablo Neruda,
launching the atomic age and, after        Earl Sutherland, Gerhard Herzberg and Dennis Gabor
the war, in the peaceful and safe uti-
lization of nuclear energy. It can be      As a 10-year-old student, he applied    technology and holography, laser
said that he was the first reactor engi-
                                       for his first patent for a new type of      holograms could be produced. Dennis
neer in the world. When he died, the   merry-go-round. By perfecting millions      Gabor also participated in this activity
New York Times, in a five-column       of street lamps, he improved public         and, by means of his research work, he
article, commemorated “the man who     lighting. He constructed a Wilson fog       contributed to the opening of new per-
introduced mankind to the atomic       chamber to measure the speed of par-        spectives in the field of text storage, let-
age and had the courage to re-tailor   ticles, he designed a holographic           ter and pattern recognition, as well as
the science of sub-atomic particles”.  microscope, built an analogue calcula-      in associated information storage. At
   “He was one of those scientists     tor, and carried out pioneering work in     the exhibition arranged on the occa-
endowed with remarkable imagina-       the development of flat, colour TV pic-     sion of the awarding of the Nobel
tion and foresight who were born and   ture tubes. His entire career is paved      Prize, Dennis Gabor was able to pre-
who studied in Budapest and came to    with a whole string of inventions.          sent a three-dimensional self-portrait
the West to alter the modern world.”   Among them, it is holography that           using laser technology. From the
                                       brought him the Nobel Prize and world       beginning, his interests also covered
  Dennis Gabor (1900 - 1979) was reputation.                                       the theory of hearing and the problems
awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in     He had been interested in the prob-     of acoustic holography, which finally
1971 “for his invention and develop- lem of the electron microscope right          led him to the field of medicine.
ment of the holographic method”.       from his youth. In 1947, he linked two         In parallel with this, the interests
                                       apparently far-removed fields; namely,      and activities of this scientist with
                                       the study of electron rays aimed at         qualifications in physics and engi-
                                       improving the electron microscope,          neering became increasingly focused
                                       and the study of information theory.        on the problems of industrial civilisa-
                                       He recognised that for perfect map-         tion and the future of mankind as a
                                       ping, all the information present in the    whole. This is indicated by a number
                                       waves reflected from the object should      of works such as Invention of the
                                       be used - not just the intensity of         future (1963), Scientific, technologi-
                                       waves, as the traditional devices did,      cal and social innovations (1970),
                                       but also the phase and amplitude of         The mature society (1972) and
                                       the wave. With this, a complete (holo)      Following the age of wasting (1976)
                                       and stereoscopic (graph) picture can        written as a report to the Roman Club.
                                       be obtained from the object. Dennis            Shortly after receiving the Nobel
                                       Gabor developed this and published          Prize, he presented himself in a tele-
                                       his invention in 1948.                      vision interview in 1972 as a man
                                           However, the widespread propaga-        combining the real and human cul-
                                       tion of holography required the devel-      ture in his lifework: “I have lived a
                                       opment of a coherent light source. This     dual life for years. For 15 years I have
                                       occurred in 1962 with the invention of      been a physicist and an inventor. This
                                       the laser. Then, by combining laser         is one life of mine, while the other

6                                                                                  NOBEL LAUREATES    OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN
one is: I am a social writer. I have       rather than on well supported data. It
realised for a long time that our cul-     is, however, optimism that I always
ture is in great danger.”                  considered to be the sole work
   The consumption of irreplaceable        hypothesis of responsible people.”
natural raw material resources and
environmental pollution undermine          Nobel Prize Laureates in
the very conditions for our survival. If
this continues, “in about a hundred        chemistry
years, we will consume and exhaust         Richard Adolf Zsigmondy (1865 -
the wealth of nature and the Earth         1929) was awarded the Nobel Prize
will become very poor”. Therefore,         for Chemistry in 1925 “for his demon-
an enormous responsibility falls on        stration of the heterogenous nature of
science of every kind. “A new science      colloid solutions and for the methods
and a new technology need to be cre-       he used, which have since become
ated that draw from nature only as         fundamental in modern colloid
much as can be restored, returned or       chemistry.”
that can be replaced.”                         Richard A. Zsigmondy obtained his
   “Invent the future” - he encour-        doctorate from the Erlangen University
aged us. In fact, the future needs to be   in 1889 in the subject of organic chem-
invented in respect of both engineer-      istry. He worked as assistant to August
ing and society. While analysing the       Kundt (1839 - 1894), the physicist, in
inventions that can be expected in the     1891-1892, and he was private docent          solutions. By means of this, he came to
future, he came to the conclusion that     at the Technische Hochschule of Graz          fundamentally important conclusions
the inventions that are probable are       between 1893 and 1899. Then he con-           on the nature of colloids, the distribu-
not those that are needed. “There will     tinued his teaching career in Jena. At        tion of particles and the stability of sols.
be even larger computers, even faster      that time, he was primarily engaged in        From 1907 onwards, he became a pro-
communication etc. But, where is           researching the peculiarities of silicon      fessor at the famous Göttingen
social stability?”                         compounds. As a consequence of his            University. In 1918, he developed the
   Dennis Gabor, a man who recog-          results obtained with glass, he was           diaphragm filter used for research in
nised the problems of the near future      asked to join the staff of the Schott glass   the fields of colloid chemistry and bio-
and advised of the danger in time,         factory of Jena; in parallel with this, he    chemistry, and then in 1929, an
was, however, not a pessimist. His         also continued his teaching activity.         improved version called the ultra-filter.
world concept and vision came from             At that time, he had already achieved     Using these devices, particles of various
a deep understanding of reality. He        fundamental results in colloidics and         sizes (including bacteria and viruses)
made us aware of these global prob-        was a true classicist of this subject. In     can be separated from each other and
lems in order to motivate us to solve      1903, in co-operation with Henry              from the solvent, respectively.
them. “I believe that the problems can     Siedentopf (1872 - 1940), he developed
be solved; although I admit that my        the ultramicroscope as one of the most           George de Hevesy (1885 - 1966)
hope derives from my optimism              important testing devices of colloid          was awarded the Nobel Prize for
                                                                                         Chemistry in 1943, “for his work on
                                                                                         the use of isotopes as tracers in the
                                                                                         study of chemical processes.”
                                                                                            He is a pioneer in radioactive tracer
                                                                                         techniques: not only for discovering the
                                                                                         method - even before the term ‘isotope’
                                                                                         was thought up - but also for leading it
                                                                                         to victory and revealing its most impor-
                                                                                         tant fields of application. By using the
                                                                                         method of radioactive tracing, not only
                                                                                         can hidden caves, water flows and the
                                                                                         inner structure of materials be detected
                                                                                         but, more importantly, the living organ-
                                                                                         ism - the parts and processes of which
                                                                                         are inaccessible by any other method -
                                                                                         can be studied.
                                                                                            From 1920 onward, he continued
                                                                                         his career in Copenhagen at the insti-
                                                                                         tute of Niels Bohr (1885 - 1962). It is
                                                                                         in this institute that he discovered
           Göttingen University during the time of Richard Zsigmondy                     element No. 72, hafnium. In the

NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN                                                                                            7
                                           organism and, in the meantime,     American Dudley R. Herschbach
                                           increased the number of isotopes   (born in 1932) and the American of
                                           used.                              Chinese origin Yuan Tseh Lee (born
                                              From 1940, he carried out further
                                                                              in 1936) “for their contributions con-
                                           experiments in Stockholm where he  cerning the dynamics of chemical
                                           found the conditions for his biologi-
                                                                              elementary processes.”
                                           cal examinations to be better than    The activity of the above three sci-
                                           those in the institute for theoretical
                                                                              entists furnished the basis of reaction
                                           physics in Copenhagen. At that time,
                                                                              dynamics - a new field of chemistry
                                           he was interested primarily in DNA that provides assistance in the more
                                           formation, and this led him to the profound and detailed understanding
                                           examination of certain malignant   of chemical reactions.
                                           tumours. During the war, he moved     In order to trace the elementary
                                           from Denmark to Sweden. By that    steps in chemical reactions, Polanyi
                                           time, the importance of tracing hadintroduced the method of infrared
                                           been completely developed. In      chemiluminescence. This enabled
                                           recognition of his work, the scientific
                                                                              infrared radiation of very low intensi-
                                           world awarded Hevesy the Nobel     ty to be detected and analysed. Thus,
                                           Prize for Chemistry in 1943.       indispensable information can be
                                              Following this high honour, he  obtained on the state of a multidi-
                                           continued his scientific activity in an
                                                                              mensional surface that describes the
same year, he launched the first           increasingly wide sphere. By means potential energy of the system.
experiments in the biological appli-       of tracing, he conquered newer and Polanyi succeeded in harmonising
cation of tracing, starting with plants,   newer fields for medical science. He
                                                                              the data calculated from the potential
by using lead and thorium isotopes.        examined the various processes of  energy surface of reactions with the
In 1926, he was invited by the             the metabolism (e.g. iron metabo-  values of parameters measured
Freiburg University to work at the         lism), continued to research tumours
Department       of     Physics     and    and, when he was older, he also start-His research introduced laser
Chemistry. During the eight years          ed studying haematology.           methods that serve for studying the
spent here, he began the application          Hevesy is famed as the founder of
                                                                              dynamics of chemical reactions. His
of tracing in animal tissues. He           a totally new discipline, nuclear med-
                                                                              name is also linked with the develop-
showed that the bismuth concentra-         icine, and he devoted his entire life to
                                                                              ment of surface photochemistry - a
tion in tumorous cells is significantly    chemical, physio-chemical, biological
                                                                              new discipline studying the detailed
higher than in healthy cells.              and medical knowledge and to cura- mechanism of reactions that take
   When the Nazis came to power in         tive applications.                 place on surfaces.
Germany, he left and moved back to                                               In addition to his scientific papers,
Copenhagen. It was here in 1934 that         John C. Polanyi (1929 - ) was he published about one hundred arti-
he discovered activation analysis, the     awarded the Nobel Prize for cles on subjects ranging over science
‘in vivo’ method of tracing. From this     Chemistry in 1986, shared with the politics, weapons reduction and
time onward, he was almost exclu-                                             papers dealing with the effects of the
sively engaged in medical, biological                                         sciences on society. He is co-editor of
and biochemistry subjects, so much                                            the book titled: “The dangers of
so that many of his colleagues truly                                          nuclear war”. His scientific activity
believed themselves to be working                                             has brought him a number of high-
with a great medical doctor.                                                  level awards, among them the Wolf
   His work became complete follow-                                           Prize in 1982.
ing the beginning of the artificial pro-
duction of isotopes. Following the dis-                                                  George A. Olah (1927 - ) was
covery of deuterium, he was able to                                                   awarded the Nobel Prize for
demonstrate the exchange process                                                      Chemistry in 1994, “for his contribu-
between goldfish and water.                                                           tion to carbocation chemistry”.
Following the discovery of artificial                                                    In the field of modern organic
radioactivity, he started using the iso-                                              chemistry, his activity disproved the
tope P32 for the examination of the                                                   dogma of the quatrovalency of car-
skeletal system and demonstrated its                                                  bon and opened up new ways of pro-
continuous renewal. He quickly                                                        ducing hydrocarbons. The produc-
extended this form of study to other                                                  tion of lead-free petrol is of outstand-
organs as well. He measured the rate                                                  ing importance.
and extent of renewal, the path and                                                      George A. Olah completed his uni-
creation of various molecules in the                                                  versity studies at the Budapest

8                                                                                     NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN
                                           research institute for George A. Olah     The Nobel Peace Prize
                                           and his colleagues at the South           Laureate
                                           California University in Los Angeles in
                                           1976. Since then, the Locker                 In addition to rewarding scientific
                                           Hydrocarbon Research Institute has        and literary performances, in his will
                                           been developing and growing under         Alfred Nobel also envisaged a sepa-
                                           the leadership of professor Olah.         rate prize to honour outstanding
                                              He is a chemist who has connected      humanists and heroes of peace. This
                                           basic research with industrial applica-   is of particular importance; in fact, the
                                           tions; who is at home in the complete     20th century is not only the era of
                                           innovation chain between universi-        nuclear energy, mankind setting foot
                                           ties and industrial companies; whose      on the Moon, global satellite commu-
                                           research activity has become an eco-      nication, computer-based informa-
                                           nomic resource while preserving the       tion processing, gene surgery and fur-
                                           environment           and       nature.   ther results of scientific progress, but
                                           Nevertheless - together with the other    also that of Hiroshima and the
                                           Nobel Prize Laureates - he warns that     Holocausts.
                                           our most important natural values are        A living witness to this is Elie
                                           intellectual values, the most impor-      Wiesel (1928-), who was awarded the
                                           tant value is human value, the
                                           civilised individual and a good educa-
Technical University, Faculty of           tion system.
Chemical Engineering. His examina-            “I hope very much to be under-
tions carried out here under the lead-     stood at home” - said Nobel Prize
ership of Professor Géza Zemplén           Laureate professor Olah speaking in
(1883 - 1956) opened up a new chap-        America - “that in the approaching
ter in the chemistry of compounds          21st century, which is not far now, the
that contain carbon atoms with a pos-      most important thing for every nation
itive charge.                              will be the knowledge of its youth.
    He applied the theoretical knowl-      Therefore, training, teaching and edu-
edge gained during the examination         cation are of fundamental impor-
of carbocations in industrial synthe-      tance. In both the 19th and 20th cen-
ses as well: he produced high-octane       turies economic resources were the
hydrocarbons with branching chains         greatest influences on which nations
from hydrocarbons with straight            were able to progress. I believe this
chains (poor quality and low-octane        will be replaced to a large extent in
petroleum fractions). On his propos-       the 21st century by what a country
al, the ions containing positive car-      can offer in the education and profes-
bon atoms are called collectively car-     sional qualification of its young peo-
bocations.                                 ple.”
    In recognition of his successful 12-      “Investment needs to be made in
year research activity, D.P. Locker        the future, and the best investment a     Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. He was 15
and his wife as well as other sponsors     country can make is in the education      when his family was deported. His
founded a hydrocarbons chemical            of its young people.”                     mother and younger sister died in the
                                                                                     gas chambers and his father died in
                                                                                     the Buchenwald death camp. He sur-
                                                                                     vived the tragedy, became an
                                                                                     accusatory witness of it, and then
                                                                                     kept the memory of it alive through
                                                                                         He moved to Paris in 1945 and dur-
                                                                                     ing the sixteen years spent there, he
                                                                                     won recognition in modern French lit-
                                                                                     erature. In 1961, he visited the United
                                                                                     States. He has been an American citi-
                                                                                     zen since 1963. Although he is a
                                                                                     writer, it is not his literary activity that
                                                                                     was the basis of this high moral recog-
                                                                                     nition; instead, the Nobel Peace Prize
George Olah’s alma mater, the Budapest Technical University                          was awarded - according to the official

NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN                                                                                        9
                                           always remembered with great emo-          ion. “It is my family and my research
                                           tion. In the year of his final examina-    activity that remain at the centre of my
                                           tion, in 1937, and following in the        life,” professor Harsanyi stated while
                                           footsteps of scientific world-luminar-     looking back on his career.
                                           ies like Theodor T. Karman (1881 -             The Stalinist political regime made
                                           1963), Leo Szilard (1898 - 1964) and       it impossible for him to continue his
                                           Ede Teller (1908 - ), he too won the       research activity in Hungary.
                                           high-ranking National Grammar              Therefore, in 1950, he and his wife
                                           School Mathematics Competition.            risked their lives to escape abroad
                                              His father owned a pharmacy in          through mine fields. In Austria, he
                                           Zugló, a part of Budapest; so, at the      started his life again as a factory
                                           request of his parents, he studied phar-   worker. In parallel with this, he stud-
                                           macology at the Budapest University of     ied economics. He continued his
                                           Sciences in order to take over the fam-    studies in America. From 1964 and for
                                           ily business. However, the war inter-      the next quarter of a century, he
                                           vened: in 1944, he was called up for       worked as a professor at Berkeley
                                           work service. Due to luck                              University in California. He
                                           and assistance from the                                    retired      in     1990.
                                           Jesuit Fathers, he sur-                                       However, he contin-
                                           vived the Second                                                ued his academic
reasoning - with special regard to the     World War.                                                       activity even after
fact that “he was the most important          When          he                                               his retirement. He
leading personality and intellectual       enrolled again in                                                 published four
leader in the times when violence,         the University of                                                 books and about
oppression and racism left their mark      Sciences, he pur-                                                 one hundred aca-
on the face of the world.”                 sued his studies in                                               demic papers.
   In Tel Aviv, a series of books titled   another field. He                                                    This lifework
“A handful of flowers - The intellectu-    obtained his doc-                                                was crowned by
al heritage of Hungarian-speaking          tor’s degree in philos-                                        the Nobel Prize,
Jewishness” edited by Emil Feuerstein      ophy, sociology and                                         awarded for his work
was published about persons regard-        psychology in the follow-                                carried out in the field of
ed as those who had contributed to         ing year. In the academic year of          game theory. Harsanyi arrived in the
the culture of both Hungary and            1947/1948, he joined the Institute of      United States in the very year John
Israel. On the title page of the third     Sociology run by Professor Sándor          von Neumann, founder of the theory
volume published in 1989, a portrait       Szalay, as an assistant professor. It is   of games, died. In his letter of 26th
of Dennis Gabor is shown at the top        there that he became acquainted with       May 1957, John Harsanyi, aged 37 at
and a portrait of Elie Wiesel, writer of   Anna Klauber, a student in psycholo-       the time, notified Budapest of the
the foreword to the Hungarian-lan-         gy, who became his life-long compan-       death of the scientist genius and of the
guage book, at the bottom.

The Nobel Prize Laureate
in Economic Sciences
John C. Harsanyi (1920 - 2000) was
awarded the Nobel Prize for
Economic Sciences in 1994, shared
with the American John Nash (1928 -)
and the German Reinhard Selten
(1930 -) “for their pioneering analysis
of equilibria in the theory of non-co-
operative games.”
   The Nobel Prize Laureate of the
game theory was born in Budapest on
29th May 1920. As Eugene Wigner
and John von Neumann before him,
Harsanyi also completed his grammar
school studies at the famous Fasor
grammar school in Budapest. Here he
acquired the foundations of his King of Sweden Carl XVI Gustaf presenting John Harsanyi with the 1994 Nobel Prize
knowledge and humanism, which he for Economic Sciences, shared with J. F. Nash and R. Selten

10                                                                                    NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN
                                           ethics that, indeed, serve to benefit
                                           society, and these rules are observed
                                           by the people, society becomes not
                                           only more ethical, but it will enjoy
                                           much better economic circumstances.
                                           In fact, if people conduct themselves
                                           in an ethical manner, there will be
                                           mutual confidence and they will not
                                           only put their trust in each other, but
                                           they will have good reason to do so,
                                           and we know that a significant part of
                                           economic life centres on people being
                                           able to trust each other; otherwise they
                                           are unable to co-operate and conclude
                                           contracts, and so on. It is best to be
                                           honest, even in economic respects!”
                                              The activity of John Harsanyi con-
                                           tributed to economics and economic
                                           thinking becoming more suitable for
                                           the accurate interpretation of the sur-
                                           rounding world, and to a more cor-
mathematical revolution Neumann            rect behaviour harmonised with this.         János Szentágothai opening the Budapest
had launched as follows: “A number         In his lifework, wisdom and honour,          exhibition of Nobel Prize winners in 1993
of mathematical disciplines were born      knowledge and humanism were com-             on the occasion of the centenary of the
in recent years to fulfil the mathemati-   bined at the highest level. His exam-        birth of Albert von Szent-Györgyi
cal needs of social sciences. (The tra-    ple, his heritage and message are of
ditional mathematical theorems were        increasing importance and increas-
‘dimensioned’ to the needs of natural      ingly topical in respect of the future       Hungarian family. Both were born in
sciences, thus, they could not com-        knowledge-based society.                     Vienna. However, Zsigmondy received
pletely fulfil the needs of social sci-                                                 the Nobel Prize in Stockholm as profes-
ences.) One of them is the ‘theory of      The Message of the                           sor at the Göttingen University
games’ founded by John von                                                              (Germany). Robert Bárány was
Neumann. (J.N. died a short time ago       Nobel Prizes                                 released from captivity by the Swedish
due to a brain tumour.) The objective      Essentially, science is international and    Government during the First World
here is to understand the economic         a scientist can contribute to several pro-   War, and it is Sweden that became his
and political equilibrium between the      fessional fields and to the wealth of sev-   new home country and his final repose.
various groups of society.”                eral countries by means of his/her           In memory of Bárány, the Hungarian,
   Professor Harsanyi, continuing the      work. The name of Robert Bárány              Austrian and Swedish Post Offices
work of Neumann, demonstrated              reveals his Hungarian origin. Richard        issued a stamp. John C. Polanyi, son of
how to successfully analyse social         Zsigmondy originated from a famous           the world famous chemist and philoso-
games, even when the available infor-
mation is incomplete. With this he
founded a fast-growing research sec-
tor, namely the economics of infor-
mation, which deals with strategic sit-
uations in which the participants only
know each other’s intentions in part
or not at all. He made good use of this
knowledge to the advantage of his
new home country and the world
when he advised President Nixon
during the American-Soviet disarma-
ment negotiations.
   The scientific activity of Professor
Harsanyi was shared between the
problems of philosophy - especially
the philosophy of history - the theory
of games, economic thinking and the
improvement of ethics. “The idea is
that, if society accepts the rules of      Hungarian Academy of Sciences

NOBEL LAUREATES   OF   HUNGARIAN ORIGIN                                                                                       11
                                                                                             It is an uplifting experience to view
                                                                                         the Nobel Prize Laureates of Hungarian
                                                                                         origin over the century. The dramatic
                                                                                         conclusion of the 20th century - the
                                                                                         stormiest period in human history -
                                                                                         appears concentrated on this historic
                                                                                         tableau: scientific-technical progress
                                                                                         needs to be paired with moral-human
                                                                                         progress. This relationship was empha-
                                                                                         sised by Albert von Szent-Györgyi
                                                                                         Nagyrapolt more than half a century
                                                                                         ago in his Nobel presentation delivered
                                                                                         in 1937. He ended his speech - which
                                                                                         can be rightly considered an eternally
                                                                                         valid message from Nobel Prize
                                                                                         Laureates - in the spirit of Alfred Nobel,
                                                                                         linking science and humanism:
                                                                                             “The objective of my examinations is
                                                                                         the same as that of modern biochem-
Nobel Prize winners in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. From left, vice-presi-         istry in general: understanding the func-
dent Pál Michelberger, John Harsanyi, George Olah, Domonkos Kosáry and Béla              tioning of the organism. If we eventual-
Halász                                                                                   ly understand the functioning of the
                                                                                         organism, a completely new era in
pher Michael Polanyi, who emigrated           proud of the results of the Hungarian      medical sciences opens. However, it is
from Budapest after the First World           Nobel Prize Laureates. The spirit of the   apparent that until this distant objective
War, was born in Berlin as a descen-          Nobel Prize encourages us to build         is achieved, these examinations are not
dant of an intellectual family that           bridges over the borders of countries      without success; in fact, we have
played an important part in Hungarian         and the separating walls of science.       revealed a number of things about
cultural life. He was educated in                                                        which we can hope - or even, already
England and received the Nobel Prize           Fact Sheets on Hungary, published         know - will mitigate human suffering.
as a citizen of Canada.                        since 1996, accessible on the Internet:       “However, there also exists another
    “I aim at becoming a useful subject                                                  point in my research activity that I
                                               – Measures taken by the state to pro-
of a different country, America; and in          mote the social integration of Roma     have much pleasure in and I am proud
addition, of an even larger entity,              living in Hungary                       of. This is not the results of my exami-
humanity, while serving the important          – The Republic of Hungary                 nations. [...] What gives me infinite
common human objectives. However,              – Thousand years of Hungarian cul-        pleasure is, on looking back to these
all this does not alter the fact that I was      ture                                    examinations, that these were enabled
and remain a Hungarian and my home             – The national and ethnic minorities      by the wide international scientific fra-
country is Hungary, as it was in my              in Hungary                              ternity, scientific co-operation and
childhood,” said Albert von Szent-             – History of Hungary                      human solidarity, without which I
                                               – The historical churches in Hungary
Györgyi Nagyrapolt, who had had to             – The Hungarian defence forces
                                                                                         would have perished and my experi-
emigrate after the Second World War,           – The foreign policy of Hungary, a        ments would not have led to any
on his return home after 25 years of             member of NATO                          results. It is an imposing feeling to
absence. In a similar way, George              – On the threshold of a new millenni-     know that, in this inflamed world full
Olah, who emigrated following the                um                                      of malice, this spirit of fraternity and
suppression of the revolution in 1956,         – Hungary’s revolution and war of         human solidarity lives at the highest
said of his dual link: “My family and I          independence of 1848-1849               level of science. I can only wish for
found a new home country and, while            – Relations between Hungary and the       this spirit to radiate beyond the bor-
                                                 European Union
being proud of that I am a Hungarian,          – Hungary and the Council of Europe
                                                                                         ders of science to lead mankind to a
I became American. [...] As for being          – The path from the Orient                future better than the present.”
Hungarian: I lived in Hungary for              – Hungary and NATO                                                    Ferenc Nagy
twenty-nine years and, as I left               – The 1956 Hungarian revolution                                Editor-in-chief of the
Hungary young, it is my best memories          – The contribution of Hungarians to                           Magyar Tudóslexikon
that remained; in fact - and this is the         universal culture
good thing about life - we remember            – The Hungarian education system             This compilation was put together on
the pleasant things. I am an American          – Hungary and its inhabitants             the basis of entries in the Magyar
                                               – Hungary’s national days
of Hungarian origin, and as I have said,                                                 Tudóslexikon (Hungarian Encyclopae-
                                               – Hungary’s national symbols
the best of both worlds is mine.”              – Hungarian winners at the Olympic        dia of Scientists) and articles published
    People in Vienna, Berlin, Stockholm,         Games                                   by the author. Further information is
Tel Aviv or even in Washington can be                                                    available at

  Check out the homepage of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Hungary at <>

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