Great natural scientists of ELTE
"The central framework of research is made of dreams woven from the threads of reasoning, measurement and calculation."
Our great forebears, who a lot of times achieved significant scientific results during hard times, stand as an example for us today. It is right to remember them, as they are the ones who created the centuries-long traditions of our University.
- Winterl Jakab (1739-1809) was a professor of chemistry and botanics at the Nagyszombati University from 1769, then at the faculty of medicine of the University of Buda (1777) and the University of Pest (1784). The rector of our university in 1780. The founder of the botanical garden. He was the one who launched chemistry education and research in Hungary. The founding director of the first Hungarian natural science association. A renowned scientist of his time, his main work is “Prolusiones ad chemiam saeculi decimi noni” - "Preparation for the chemistry of the 19th century", published in 1800. H. C. Ørsted (1777–1851) Dannish physicist and chemist described him as: "one of the few, who examines all those phenomenons of nature that he sees with an open eye, and follows them until he understands." Pál Kitaibel (1757-1817) botanist, geologist, chemist was his student, then colleauge.
- Ányos Jedlik (1800-1895) was a professor of physics between 1848 and 1878 and an outstanding experimenter and inventor (electro-engine, concept of dynamo, creation of the optical grid, etc.). Unfortunatelly, as he did not publish his results, the world does not acknowledge his achievements.
- Ignác Semmelweis (1818-1865), the "savior of mothers" studied at the faculty of medicine between 1839 and 1841, then became a teacher of theoretical and practical obstetrics.
- Károly Than (1834-1908) was a professor of chemistry at our university from 1860. He was the only professor of chemistry in the country for decades. He had plenty of students, of whom many became outstanding scientists following research in Germany (Béla Lengyel, Lajos Ilosvay, Loránd Eötvös, Gusztáv Buchböck, Lajos Winkler, Rudolf Fabinyi, Leó Liebermann, Géza Zemplén). He received the Lieben Prize in 1867 for the production and classification of carbonyl sulfide. He proved that ammonia and hydrogene-chloride can simultaneously be present in ammonium chloride vapor in a non-compound state. His "ion equivalence", which was ahead of his time, has proven to be useful; it is used to describe the composition of water to this day.
- Loránd Eötvös (1848-1919), eponymous of our University, became world-renowned for the creation of the torsion balance capable of measuring the changes of gravitational space. The law of temperature dependence of surface tension was also named after him. He started to study natural sciences at our university, and following his studies abroad he became a teacher at our University for almost half a century. His writings on educational and scientific policy are still valid today. Let two of his many ascertainments stand here, in which he speaks about the support of universities and encourages taking part in the international competition: "The needs of science shall not be established with the normal rate of the provident national budget" and "we could hardly share our scientific results with the world without publishing them in foreign languages."
- István Bugarszky (1868-1941) is the discoverer of the endothermic galvanic cell, which served as the first experimental proof of the modern theory of chemical affinity.
- Pál Szily (1878-1945) was a student, then an assistant lecturer of our University. He is renown for the invention of artificial buffer solutions.
- György Hevesy (1885-1966) began his studies at our University, then continued them abroad. He maintained a very good relationsip with his teacher Gusztáv Buchböck (1869-1935), whom he described as a kind person with an extensive knowledge. He spent a lot of time traveling, but he still worked and had students in Budapest too(e.g.: Erzsébet Rónai, who later worked at Oak Ridge, and was responsible for the production of polonium in the Manhattan Project). For a short period from the fall of 1918 he was a professor at our University, but his other brilliant results were achieved abroad. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for discovering hafnium, but subsequently received it for the development of radioactive tracing methodogy in 1943, when he was still a Hungarian citizen. Hevesy notified his friend F. Paneth about the discovery of hafnium in January 4th, 1923: "We caught the 72nd element. I'm telling you first. We found it in a Norwegian zirconium mineral recently, but now it is certain, as it has been proven with a roentgen spectoscope."
- Mihály Polányi (1891-1976) graduated as a medical doctor, then became a world-renown physical chemist at German and English universities. He also became world famous as philospher. His son, John Polányi, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986 for the reaction kinetics research started by his father. Jenő Wigner (Nobel laureate 1963) was also his doctoral student.
- Albert Szent-Györgyi (1893-1986) was a student of the Faculty of Medicine from 1911 and graduated in 1917. In 1937 he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discoveries in bio-combustion, including Vitamin C and the catalysis of fumaric acid. His take on research was the following: "The central framework of research is made of dreams woven from the threads of reasoning, measurement and calculation."
- György Békésy (1899-1972) received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1961 for the exploration of the physical mechanism of the irritation of the cochlea. He received his doctorate in physics at our University in 1923 from Károly Tangl.
- János Neumann (1903-1957), the outstanding mathematician of the 20st century and the founder of computer theory, received his doctorate at our University in 1926. He wrote about the interconnectedness of natural sciences and mathematics: "It is undisputable that the best thoughts of mathematics originate from natural sciences"
- Pál Turán (1910-1976) received his mathematics-physics teacher degree at our University in 1933. He finished his doctoral program in 1935 with Lipót Fejér's supervision. He was a professor of ELTE from 1949 until his death. His work on number theory had a widerange; from additive characteristics of series of integers, to distribution of prime numbers in numerical progressions and of additive functions, power sums and null of zeta and L functions.
- Lajos Kossuth received his lawyer degree at our University on 26th September, 1823. It is worth noting that while natural sciences were his hobbies and not his profession, he wrote: "I find myself lucky, to be one of those, who not only understand, but by glancing in the Holy writing of nature and realizing the unbreakable law that is present between the faith of nations and the recognition and use of the powers of nature, is certain that of all movements that support the Nation's intelectual rise and the education of the public, natural science is the most necesarry, and has the greatest effect on self-sufficiency in the battleground of existence, therefor it is the most beneficial for society." Letter of Lajos Kossuth from Turin to the National Science Association, 1876
The compilation was created by György Inzelt, professor of ELTE TTK's Institute of Chemistry
On the picture: György Hevesy, eponymous of Doctoral School of Chemistry.